John Cowen

John Cowen

User Experience • Design • Creativity

The value of a Copywriter

Published:

Early last week I wrote a quick Tweet.

I referred to the use of Hemmingway App in particular because I’d found writing content for a new portfolio a lot more difficult than the visual design decisions.

Through experience - I know I’m pretty good at making assessments of my visual design work. But I'm an infrequent copywriter and find it more difficult to edit my own writing. Hemmingway App therefore is a helpful tool in pushing me to rethink, restructure and refine content before publishing. As I’ll explain though - it’s just a tool and what can be achieved with it is still down to the skill of the person using it.

Shortly after I sent the Tweet I got a reply from a friend, Tom Staniford, who is a professional copywriter - asking if I’d object to receiving a few thoughts on it from him. I said I’d be delighted, and later in the day Tom sent me a review of the introductory text on the new web page.

My original opening text was:

Hello, I'm John, a user experience and website designer based in Exeter. I work with businesses of all sizes from modest start ups to charities and international organisations.

Specialising in user testing, visual design and creative thinking. I work with you to improve customer experience and achieve business goals.

Tom made some points that (I like to think) I would have picked up on if reviewing someone else’s work - but unable to spot in my own writing. These were simple grammatical errors, like incorrect use of commas on 'Hello, I’m John, a ...' or stylistic inconsistencies such as lack of capitalisation on 'user experience'' - in a situation where capitalisation would be appropriate and having already established the convention in the page headline.

Tom also made some more advanced suggestions that I’m not sure I would have gotten to myself; such as content being spread between two paragraphs inappropriately.

Tom's first reworking of my content was:

Hello.

I'm John, a User Experience and website designer based in Exeter.

I work with businesses of all sizes, from modest start-ups to charities and international organisations.

I specialize in user testing, visual design, and creative thinking to improve customer experience and help achieve your business goals.

Already reading better.

And the final draft:

Hello.

I'm John, a User Experience and website designer based in Exeter.

I specialize in user testing, visual design, and creative thinking to improve customer experience and help achieve your business goals. I work with businesses of all sizes, from modest start-ups to charities and international organisations.

You can see my portfolio at…. Or, you can get in touch to discuss at ...

All these changes are subtle. Professional writers might easily pick up on the errors in my own first version, but my typical visitors probably wouldn’t. This isn’t to say it wasn’t worth doing though. It definitely is. While a typical user might not consciously pick up on the errors and inconsistencies in a block of text - they will unconsciously pick up on a better written piece of text and have better understanding or improved impression of you.

It’s a perfect example of the value professionals in their field can offer.

Some professionals, such as solicitors, dentists or surveyors, work in a field where customers are unlikely to think they can do the work themselves. In other industries people often think it’s work they can do themselves. I know it’ s true to some extent in design and, I imagine, to a much greater extent copywriting. At some level this is true. They can churn out a design or a piece of writing themselves, it just won’t be very good. The problem though, is that if you’re not an experienced designer or writer - it can be difficult to review your work and visualise how it could be improved.

As a non-writer I knew my first version of text wasn’t quite right and I used a tool to help me improve it. And the following version was better. But a tool will only get you so far, and to make something really good - you need knowledge and mastery of your particular area. I’d peaked on my writing abilities, I didn’t have enough knowledge to really identify any further problems with my text and therefore was happy for it to be published.

Someone with more knowledge than me was able to immediately pick up on some problems and make improvements.

The moral here I suppose is: "if it ain’t broke, it’s still worth talking to a professional about fixes as there are likely to be some ..."

Thanks again to Tom for his advice on this copy - you can find out more from Tom on his LinkedIn profile.

Update: I'm in a moral dilema here because another good friend of mine has also recently started a Copywriting business - so not wanting to be accused of showing favouritism, I will also recommend DropCapCopy as a good copywriting service!

You made it to the bottom! Thanks for reading.

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