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What it means to be a copywriter: interviews from Articulate

Writing about who copywriters are got me thinking – who is Articulate? The company, from its humble, purely copywriterly beginnings, has matured into a fully-fledged inbound marketing agency (bells and whistles included).

And the culture has changed along with it, through both evolution and revolution.

But remarkable, epiphany-inducing copy is still at the heart of what we do.

So I interviewed Articulate's two most senior writers, CEO Matthew and Articulate veteran Clare, to find out who Articulate's copywriters are.

Matthew Stibbe

Matthew Stibbe – Team ArticulateCEO and writer-in-chief at Articulate Marketing and CEO of Turbine, Matthew is the entrepreneur's copywriter.

Copywriting is...
text-assisted telepathy.

How do you describe yourself at dinner parties?
Ha! Given up trying. I say to people, 'I work in marketing so I'm interested in truth, beauty and justice'. It usually gets a laugh.

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How did you get into copywriting?
Got a couple of writing assignments when I sold my first business and really enjoyed writing.

What do you hate most about your job?
You have to work 24 hours a day.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
You get to choose which 24.

What piece of copy do you wish you'd written?
Pretty much anything in the New Yorker.

Copy of which you're most proud.
I wrote an introduction to a book about a rainforest game I designed and it had a lovely extended metaphor about rivers and forests of code.

My favourite headline was 'How to put your obese copy on a diet'.

The copy I enjoy writing most is usually opinionated rants but that doesn't take as much work as a really finely-crafted technical piece for a client.

Who's your favourite (copy)writer?
Professionally, I admire Apple's copy very much. Also much of Google's.

Personally, I like a really well-written history book. RW Southern's Making of the Middle Ages struck me as particularly well written but it's been a long time since I read it. I like spare, purposeful writing.

What book would you recommend for the copywriter?
Writing to Deadline by Donald Murray.

What sort of copywriter are you?
I have two writing modes: one is a sort of full-flow autowriting which is pretty easy and the other is a sort of patient assembly of lego bricks which is much harder. So I flip-flop between slap-dash and painstaking.

How would you describe your copywriting style?
Workmanlike. 'Harmless drudge' (as Samuel Johnson defined a lexicographer).

How do you make it through the day/week?
My feet hardly touch the ground from 8am on Monday until 6pm or 7pm on Friday. The problem with running a writing business is that the business gets in the way of the writing. But coffee, tea and lunchtime runs seem to help.

Where do you find inspiration?
Reading. Lots and lots of reading.

What are you up to when you're not copywriting?
Flying, learning Dutch, geeking out, wine, theatre, reading.

What do you think of the state of the copywriting/content marketing industry?
Business is falling in love with design, thanks in part to Apple's success. It would be nice if copywriting was equally well understood and appreciated. It's not just 'wordsmithing' or 'churning out content' or 'replacing lorem ipsum' or 'SEO fodder'. A few companies get it but lots more don't. But either way, the opportunity is huge for marketing agencies that lead with copywriting.

Your best piece of copywriterly advice.
Be patient with yourself. You're already a great writer. Now get better.

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Clare Dodd

Clare Dodd – Team ArticulateArticulate old hand, blogging doyenne and technology lover, Clare knows her EV SSL certificate from her global de-dupe backup.

Copywriting is...
a constant battle for better.

How do you describe yourself at dinner parties?
I usually say I write marketing content for tech companies. Or, if I'm feeling sassy, I write informative and interesting content that guides a reader to a certain idea or product but under the illusion of objectivity.

How did you get into copywriting?
Accidentally. I only realised some years after my degree that my aversion to waffle, jargon and pomposity could actually be turned into a career. Then my friend sent me a link to Matthew's advert for an internship.

What do you hate most about your job?
When I can't find an alternative to using the word 'solution', and the continued sexism of the tech industry that's perpetuated by other copywriters.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I get paid to improve my writing skills.

What piece of copy do you wish you'd written? Why?
Like Matthew, I think the New Yorker is the pinnacle of great non-fiction writing. The New York Times often comes in a close second. They are well-researched and beautifully crafted into compelling and interesting stories. They feel clean to read - there's nothing extraneous - and yet it feels effortless.

Marketing copy? Possibly the line 'Less of an acquisition, more of a merger' that was used in an ad campaign by high-end dating agency Gray and Farrar, which targets top business people.

Copy of which you're most proud.
Anything where I know I couldn't make it any better.

Who's your favourite (copy)writer?
There's always something new to learn from a writer you haven't encountered yet so I don't have a favourite. That said, Donna Tartt and Scarlett Thomas write wonderful books that are weird, intricate and unfailingly gripping. You can pause mid-book for months and still remember every word when you come back.

What book would you recommend for the copywriter?
Essays of EB White.

What sort of copywriter are you?
Sponge, novelist, the child and (off-piste) feminist.

How would you describe your copywriting style?
For the client, whatever they need me to be. For my own work? Informative, opinionated and conversational enchantress. (ha!)

How do you make it through the day/week?
Coffee shops, Netflix binges in the evening to rest my mind and the love of writing.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. That's the point.

What do you do when you're not copywriting?
Go to gigs, go to the pub, visit new places or just lie down.

What do you think of the state of the copywriting/content marketing industry?
The rise of content is good in that words begin to matter more, but it also means an increase in content for the sake of it, which is sad. The more the marketing message gets pushed, the more I worry that the craft of writing itself will get pushed out of the limelight.

Your best piece of copywriterly advice.
Read it out loud. Does that really scan right?

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Toby Knott

Marketing copywriter for Articulate Marketing.