Advice — A beginner’s guide to copywriting: 6 essential reads to get you started
So you think you might be a copywriter. A single journey can be one big reading fest, as you scrutinise long-copy ads, or stop to stare at snappy (or shocking) headlines. You get excited when you spot an amusing banner ad, clever pun or witty window display; and take note when a brand tries out a new tone of voice. Or maybe you just love a good book, and appreciate a fantastic turn of phrase. But whether you’re a budding copywriter or a designer looking to get more creative with words, how do you get started in the world of commercial writing? We asked master copywriter and tutor at the School of Communication Arts, Vikki Ross, whose clients include Sky, Sainsbury’s and ITV. Here, she recommends some top-notch resources to help you craft your very own lines of copy.
Copywriting: Read all about it!
Read anything and everything. Any time. All the time. All week and all weekend. At the supermarket, the gym, the coffee shop, the bus stop, the train station, and the pub. Words are everywhere – in leaflets, papers, and magazines, and online, on signs, on walls and on windows wherever you go.
The more you read, the more words you have going around your mind ready to come out the moment you start writing. And the more words you read that are for different products and different people, the more styles you have access to, too.
As for books, read as many as you can from any genre and by anyone. But for books specifically helpful for copywriters, here are my favourites:
Also from Steve Harrison:
How To Do Better Creative Work
Changing the World is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man
3. Read Me: 10 Lessons for Writing Great Copy by Roger Horberry and Gyles Lingwood
10 chapters with an exercise or two at the end of each so you can put what you read into practice as you go.
6. The Elements of Fucking Style by Chris Baker and Jacob Hansen
The boring stuff made hilarious and therefore memorable. You must get the basics right because errors and typos distract readers from the important stuff.
Books by Dave Trott, Paul Arden, John Hegarty and Bob Hoffman
The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
Book of Ideas by Radim Malinic
The Art of Creative Thinking by Rod Judkins
A couple more recommendations
Take Fucking Risks
Mellor & Smith get the biggest names in the industry to rock up and whip a huge audience into shape. Previous events have included Dave Trott, Cindy Gallop, Bob Hoffman and Mr Bingo.
Each year, a star-studded line-up reads a letter of note from the brilliant Letters of Note and More Letters of Note. The readers are never announced so you don’t know who’s doing a reading until each one is introduced on the night.
Don’t forget to look up and around too. We’re in the business of talking to people and they’re all over the place so tune in: listen to what they say and watch what they do. Your phone doesn’t need your attention – the world does.