- Accurate English – grammar, spelling and punctuation – is essential, but isn’t enough on its own.
- A journalism qualification or experience adds plenty of useful skills that can be transferred, but doesn’t cover everything.
- An understanding of marketing is critical, but won’t make a copywriter in isolation.
- A knowledge of business across a range of industries is important, particularly for a writer who plans to freelance or work for an agency.
- First class communication skills – spoken as well as written – are invaluable.
- Sales skills and the understanding of how a sale is constructed are also essential.
So a good copywriter can write excellent English, to engage the audience, that has been researched and understood; he/she knows how to present a business effectively and can ask the right questions to establish the key benefits of any business then present them in writing in a way that creates ‘want’ in the reader.
There are are many copywriters who can tick some of the boxes, but few who really manage to tick every one of these.
Commercial copy has to connect powerfully with the reader to get them to take action; articles in newspapers and magazines are usually to inform or to entertain. Of course, some of them engage the reader emotionally too, but they’re not usually selling anything in particular. In fact, most publications, defend their right to be impartial and write the facts as they see them.
Writing commercial copy is all about creating an image that the reader can relate to – that’s why a really good copywriter uses ‘you’ much, much more than ‘we’. The aim is to get the reader to imagine themselves in the situation where they have the product or are experiencing the service that they’re reading about.
Of course, we are all potential customers and we’re not idiots. We know that a commercial website or marketing flyer is going to try and present their products or services in a way that attracts us, but, if we’re already visiting that website or looking at that brochure or picking up that flyer that means we have an interest. Now it’s just a matter of saying the things that get us to say ‘I want this – now; and I want THIS one!’
That’s no easy task, but that’s what a commercial copywriter sets out to do.
Anyone can write, but not everyone can do that.