The 10 Greatest Pitfalls of Copywriting

Copywriting sounds like a lot of fun for a big paycheck, but in reality it’s got a dark side too, like most things that glitter gold. Here are the ten worst things about copywriting today:

1. No One Reads Your Blog: Once regarded as an online outlet for teenage diaries, these days it’s nearly impossible to get your site ranked on Google without a blog. That said, many people still consider most blogs to be full of worthless or uninteresting information. And let’s face it, most of them are! For those poor copywriters looking to make a mark on the virtual world, or blogging for their clients, it takes real dedication to those eight people who make up your readership, at least for the first year or so.

2. Tweeting: It can be fun, sure. But you can quickly get sucked in to the Twitterverse, when you realized how many other copywriters, screenwriters, novelists, poets, and unemployed dilettantes have more followers than you.

3. Coffee, Coffee, Everywhere: Any good copywriter knows that caffeine can help her write with high intensity and focus. But when you need your third cup of the day to function, you have a problem. You don’t have to go cold turkey, but you could at least start drinking green tea.

4. Too Much Irony: Those hundreds of hours blogging solely for the purpose of Google’s search index weren’t wasted, but they can really get to a writer’s sensibilities. A teaspoon of snark is fine, but when I find myself feeling downright ironical, I take heart, and shun those postmodern tendencies. We’ve come too far since the ’90s to turn back now.

5. Rewriting The Same Thing A Hundred Times: You have to write a product description, web content, a blog, media kit, newsletters, and e-mail blasts, all for the same product. You repeat the same turns of phrase, words, and ways to start a sentence so many times that you’re beginning to feel like a broken record. It’s okay. Consult a thesaurus. Take a break. And hopefully, by the time you’re ready to begin again you will care about what you write.

6. Your Client Changes Your Work Or Worse, Decides Not To Use It: It’s been known to happen. It’s tough, but try not to hold a personal grudge against them or the company they represent. Maybe you were on the right path but they felt… Nah. Hate them as much as you want. They hated your copy. You have a right. Then use your hatred as fuel to write even better copy next time.

7. Writer’s Block: The best writers say this doesn’t exist. And they’re right. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes you don’t know what to say or you find yourself writing the same meaningless boilerplate (see #5). Take a break, read a few online articles, write how you feel and why you’re upset to get the juices flowing, and get back to it.

8. Learning English: Our language is broad and expansive. Considering our relative lack of “inflectional morphology,” i.e., changing the ends of certain words to change their meanings, English is relatively easy. However, there are still certain tricks to sounding like a native. Prepositional usage is one, for example, and since our language is ever expanding and changing due to its being one of the most widely-spoken in the world, it takes constant research and dedication to wield it correctly.

9. Misunderstanding The Audience: What distinguishes your client from their competition? Who are they selling to? These are the most important questions to ask yourself before setting down to write a tag line. A brand story is important, but if you can’t place that brand in the market, then it won’t matter much.

daniel adler copywriter10. Selling Too Hard: The old ad world maxim that it’s not creative unless it sells still rings true. But sometimes as copywriters, we try to sell without being creative, or act creative and forget to sell. Advertising is, by nature, a creative industry. The best creative results come from the right balance of hard work and divine inspiration.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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