“Sorry, what are you again?” asked the Nice Bank Lady.
“Copywriter. Freelance copywriter.”
“Oh” (scrolls). “There isn’t a box for that… What exactly do you do?”
Moot point. Polite answers only please.
“I, er, write stuff. Websites, blogs, signs, brochures, that sort of thing.” (Not dialogue, clearly.)
“OK, I’ll put you down as “Marketing.”
Copywriter is not a helpful term. “Copy” isn’t really a term those outside the industry know. Years ago, when most publishing was confined to a rarefied world that smelled of ink and rattled to the sound of printing presses, this wasn’t an issue. These days, copywriters (freelance ones like me anyway) work for a different market – one where the traditional language of editing is irrelevant.
Plus of course, the homophone “copyright” doesn’t help. I’ve met a few people who’ve assumed that I do some sort of legal thing involving stopping people using words. Fair point.
So, what’s a copywriter to call herself? Occasionally I’ve dropped the “copy” bit. Then I’ve put it back, unable to face the disappointment of those in the school car park, when they figure out that they’ve never leafed through me in Waterstones. It also feels a bit grandiose to give myself the same job title as Dickens.
I looked into this. As ever, my shallow start was with Wikipedia. I read: “If the purpose is not ultimately promotional, its author might prefer to be called a content writer.” Ooh, I quite like that. But is it too specific? And sometimes it is promotional (I hope). Occasionally I am a “technical writer”, but I’ll just wear that (protective and reinforced) hat when I need to.
As copywriter is an archaic term, why not really embrace the really old and use “Scribe”, or “Scrivener”? Or, as a copywriter in Cornwall, maybe I should adopt the Cornish term “Skrifyades”, translated as “female professional writer”. If only English had a similar succinct word for professional writer… It’s a great word, but hardly supports my mission to have a transparent job title.
Maybe the dilemma has been solved by a charming client of mine. “Wordsmith”, he said. “That’s what you are.”
Do you think the bank has that on its database?