Kate Waddon Copywriting

We all need words. Let me help you find the right ones.

Don’t tittle your i’s – just dot them.

A wonderfully wordy friend pointed me in the direction of “50 things you had no idea they had a word for.” (Yes, I know it’s another post based on a link I was sent – but hey, it’s the school summer holidays…)

I knew only five of the fifty (and surely “rasher” is just there to make up the numbers) so have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other forty-five. It’s probably the closest we get to understanding the joy young children get from learning new words. I love watching my two when they discover a word. They try it out, they roll it round their mouths; it’s like they are tasting it. And then with sheer delight they repeat it, at various pitches, until they’ve captured and fixed it. “Hey, I knew that was a Thing, but now it’s Thing with a name!”

And this lovely list gives names to Things we know but didn’t have a word for. I’ve always loved the smell of the air after rain – and now I know I’m experiencing “petrichor”. What I’ve always called “dad dancing” can actually be referred to by its proper name of “balter” (less offensive to fathers); and I was delighted to learn that “Oh **$@!!!^^%?” is called “grawlix”. I was taught to cross my t’s, but had never appreciated that I had to tittle my i’s. (Ooh, lots of little red squiggly lines as I type. And I’m not even gambrinous…)

Of course (here comes the serious bit), it’s wonderful to learn new words, even at my advanced age, and great fun to try them out on people. But aside from this blog post, you won’t be coming across them in my writing. There’s no point in cluttering up copy with obscure and overcomplicated words, however appealing they are. It’s not a sign of intellectual superiority to use “long words” for the sake of it – unless you know your reader shares your lexicon or you’re engaged in writing technical or professional text, it’s just a sign of failure to communicate.

So it’s unlikely you’ll see any of these gorgeous terms on my website again – no “i” tittling here. In that case, for one last time – I shall have a quick pandiculate then go and do some runcation in the garden.

 

Why the copywriter in Cornwall needs to be bilingual

It’s marvellous being a copywriter in Cornwall. And no, it’s not because I get to bunk off and go surfing– it’s because the language down here is an absolute joy.

So, when a friend posted a link to 22 words that take on a whole new meaning in Cornwall, I just had to share it.

There is a vaguely serious point in this – be aware of your vocabulary and your idiom, the specific, figurative expressions found in your language and dialect.  I once wrote a couple of web pages for a (Cornish) client who works mainly with American customers. Going through my first draft with him I was pulled up by the amount of UK English idioms I had peppered the text with. Like “pulled up”, and “peppered”.

In these global days, it’s always worth thinking about just how many versions of our lovely language there are. Phrases that we use every day may make very little sense to another English speaker. I wrote the web copy for an international marine company recently, and had to be extremely conscious that as well as UK and US English, many readers would not be first-language English speakers. This probably means that their grammar and vocabulary are far better than mine, however I may inadvertently use throw-away terms (there’s one) that they are unfamiliar with.

At the moment, all my clients are British, with mainly British-based clients themselves. Even so, it’s worth remembering that clarity is the most important thing, and elaborate idioms are of very little benefit. And as most of my clients are from the other side of the Tamar they may get busy with Track Changes if I start copywriting in Cornish – “We can deliver anywhere upcountry: first class, guaranteed next day or dreckly”…

“Madder do ee?”*  Well yes, it does.

 

*Does it matter?

“Random stuff” – the copywriter’s knowledge base

“See those blue circles on the window?” I said to my friend over coffee at the swimming pool cafe. “Those are manifestation dots. They’re needed by law in public places to stop us from walking into large windows.”

“Writing about glass then?” she replied.

Stick with me, kids – the conversational possibilities are endless. Copywriters are either the world’s best or most irritating dinner party guests. Our knowledge bank of “random stuff”, built up over years of working on a variety of projects, means we can generally find something to talk about.

I’ve discussed the problems of psittacosis in pet parrots with great empathy (never owned one); waxed lyrical about the types of portaloo available these days; and when there were problems with our local water supply, I become positively overheated about the benefits of dosage pumps.

But of course, I’m not really an expert at all – and does that matter? Well, Winchester Cathedral copy and I get on pretty well because my background is in heritage (and as you may have noticed, I have a bit of a thing for the Middle Ages). My first proper copy job was for an HR company; as I’ve been an HR manager, the background for that job was easy-peasy and a lovely starting place for my new life as a freelancer. Oil rig insurance? That was a different matter…

New clients ask if I’ve written about or have any prior knowledge of their particular product or service. Sometimes I have, frequently I know a bit in a vague, everyday sort of way, occasionally I know nothing whatsoever about it (ahem, oil rig insurance). But it really doesn’t matter. I always ask clients for as much information as they can give me right at the start of a project; and I always ask them to check each draft for technical accuracy. They are the experts, not me; the copywriter is there to capture and communicate the information in the best way possible.

Not having a background in a subject can be key. Sometimes it takes a layman to explain things to a layman, which is perhaps why I write a lot of web copy for engineers, contractors and various specialist builders and suppliers. Their customers are rarely experts and don’t want to encounter a wall of technical terms, acronyms and a whole new (frankly bizarre-sounding) vocabulary.  Likewise, we all hate being talked down to, and the “informing-without-patronising” tone is one I’m often asked to write in.

By the end of a project, my brain is buzzing from the sheer joy of learning about new stuff. Do I remember it? The honest answer is yes I do, but not in huge detail. When a project is over, I retain enough information to enlighten/entertain/bore my friends; but my focus has moved on to the next job, and I’ll be immersing myself in that topic.

But I love the term “manifestation dots”.  And you never know, one day I could find myself searching for small-talk with the owner of very large windows…