Miscellaneous Writing

The top ten lies of copywriters

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'I write astronaut banter for NASA' cartoon

I really enjoyed Guy Kawasaki’s article the top ten lies of venture capitalists and the top ten lies of entrepreneurs. I’ve written here before about the top ten lies of PR companies. In this light-hearted spirit, here are the top ten lies of copywriters. And no, we’ve never used any of them. Honest.

  1. ‘That deadline isn’t a problem’. If we work evenings and weekends and start mainlining the caffeine. Sometimes, I long to say to clients ‘lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.’

  2. ‘Thanks for the helpful feedback’. Actually, feedback can be helpful, but briefing by review is very inefficient and frustrating.

  3. ‘Happy to do another rewrite’. The most versions we’ve done on a single project was 18. This was a huge 25,000+ word project that had three multinational stakeholders and dozens of reviewers. Projects like that become a death march.

  4. ‘We welcome the input of the legal / HR / PR / brand police’. They’re a necessary evil but they can be a pain when they stray out of their area of expertise and start giving helpful writing advice. After all, lawyers are the first people you go to for clear, unambiguous, easy-to-read copy.

  5. ‘Your brief is fine’. Most clients give good, helpful briefs but sometimes all we get is the back of the fag packet with a few random ideas. Part of our job is to make sense of that but it’s easier if we don’t have to.

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  6. ‘Of course I can redraft this’. Actually, you got the brief wrong, didn’t clear it with your boss and now she wants something different and we have to throw away two days’ work.

  7. ‘Sure we have the bandwidth’. We don’t like to say no, even if we have to work harder or longer to get the job done.

  8. ‘It’ll be done by Friday’. In many cases we’ll get it done a bit sooner but proofreading, editing and managing the project also takes time and it’s better to have a bit of breathing space.

  9. ‘It’s the next thing on my to-do list’. After cleaning the fridge, tidying my desk and researching Soviet-era fighters on Wikipedia. Procrastination’s a wonderful thing.

  10. ‘We don’t mind if you call it wordsmithing’. Actually, we do more than ‘write pretty’. We research, analyse, structure, persuade, inform, entertain and engage.

If you want to be a great client and avoid hearing these ‘lies’, read how to care for your writer and how to work with writers.

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Matthew Stibbe

Matthew is founder and CEO of Articulate Marketing.