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Calling copywriters

Copywriters have never had it so good. We have the opportunity, to hold entire brands together across all kinds of media with words and stories, from memes to movies. But where to start if you want to be a great copywriter? Well, I highly recommend Read me. 10 lessons for writing great copy by Roger Horberry & Gyles Lingwood. It's the nerdy word orgy you've been waiting for — an educational book about copywriting in all its forms. And, it's so well-written that even your Art Director friends and bi-curious creative colleagues can try it.

"Read me" is an excellent book about writing for brands and campaigns. It contains great examples, inspiring quotes from successful copywriters and practical exercises after each chapter. It's a known fact that in order to write better, you should read more, so fast-track your writing craft by doing what the title says. 

 What makes "Read me" great is its well-thought-out structure. You won't feel overwhelmed. Ideas are easy to follow and cover all copy areas from headlines to long-copy and overall branding. The chapters and exercises are designed to allow everything to sink in. The book also includes tips you can use immediately, like skipping your first sentence and starting on your second, or third. Try it. I'm amazed how often this technique leads to a more intriguing entry point. It also encourages mixing up sentence lengths to keep attention. Yes.

"Read me" includes short interviews with successful copywriters, performers and journalists who give advice from real-life writing experience — Iain Aitch recommends putting something of yourself into your writing; the legendary Luke Sullivan recognises that we often procrastinate by doing research when we should just "start where we are"; and Mandy Wheeler recommends that we read our work out loud. Agreed.

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"Read me" is not just a book. Visit readmewriting.com for online inspiration. Or, find work like these iconic Economist ads at @ReadMeLKP on twitter (yes, copywriters still hang out on twitter).

Of course, reading one book will not make you a copywriter. However, if the second is the updated classic The Copy Book (Taschen / D&AD), two might do the trick. The brilliance on its pages will never date and will almost instantly put you in superior copywriting mode. One of my favourite current writers featured in the new version is Nick Asbury. He effortlessly covers a broad scope of media from big brands to personal projects and often writes about copy (no pressure!) for publications like Creative Review. Find his work here.

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Two other books about copywriting that are well worth reading are Junior by Thomas Kemeny and Copywriting is ... by Andrew Boulton.

Junior has a minimalistic layout and no images, keeping you in cruize control while you effortlessly absorb 178 pages of writing advice. Clear examples illustrate points,  like this on page 52 under 'Finding the line': "Line: A color printer for the price of black and white" and "Stepping further: Millions of colors for the price of two". This book is years of writing experience for the price of $24.95! Get it.

Two other books about copywriting that are well worth reading are Junior by Thomas Kemeny and Copywriting is ... by Andrew Boulton.

Junior has a minimalistic layout and no images, keeping you in cruize control while you effortlessly absorb 178 pages of writing advice. Clear examples illustrate points,  like this on page 52 under 'Finding the line': "Line: A color printer for the price of black and white" and "Stepping further: Millions of colors for the price of two". This book is years of writing experience for the price of $24.95! Get it.

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 In a Creative Review article, Boulton explains that his book, Copywriting is ... is not a how-to manual. “It won’t, for example, walk you through some individual copywriting techniques and methods,” he writes. “Nor will it show you specific examples of real-life ads and concepts to illustrate how these techniques are used. The reason is quite simple. Writing such a book is far harder to do and I am far lazier than the sort of person who is able to write one. More importantly, such books already exist and there are a handful of them I am entirely sure I would not be able to improve on.” Instead, Boulton is offering over 30 pieces of advice that take you through the “feelings, fears, failures, frustrations and half-baked solutions from a life in copywriting, and the teaching of copywriting”. 

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There are also a growing number of events that have a welcome focus on the craft of copywriting, such as the annual D&AD Festival in London. Others are purely for copywriters, like Copy Capital founded by Copy Chief Vikki Ross in 2018. Of course most live events of any kind have, unfortunately been cancelled thanks to COVID, but hopefully they'll return soon. Vikki also organises #copywritersunite nights in London, and these have just started up again after lockdown. Yes please.

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But wait, there's more! If you really want to up your copywriting game you must get hold of Nick Parker's Voicebox. An invaluable tool to help you discover or create your brand's unique tone of voice (Nick runs That explains things and also sends out a great weekly newsletter that's well worth the click). 

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Voicebox is a hands-on toolkit to help you find your brand tone of voice. It will get you "beyond that generic ‘friendly’ voice to something far more distinctive, interesting and unique." (Nick's words, not mine).

Finally, a podcast. There are quite a few, but if I had to pick one, it would be AllGoodCopy by Glenn Fisher. He has also created Isolated Talks to keep us sane during (and after) lockdown with great talks by a lot of top writers (and strategists), including Vikki Ross, Dave Trott and Mark Pollard.

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McNally Unlimited © 2021

McNally Unlimited © 2021