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Copywriting story

Updated on November 8, 2009

Gold leaf close focus

This is what happens when you give an expert a brief for a magazine piece.

If you’ve ever done any article copywriting, you will know that some of the work involves cleaning up the messes of others. Usually there’s a deadline involved, or some sort of other complication.

Through a friend I got some work from a very nice person who sent me a job for a magazine. With this came a brief from the magazine, a beautifully set out, plain as day brief in a document with a table, explaining content requirements in detail. Along with the brief came the client’s response; any resemblance between the brief and the job was confined to the title.

It was a real pity, too. The guy was obviously an expert, and his information would have been brilliant in any other format. It was just that it had practically nothing to do with the brief. The result of this was that I had to research every single topic of the brief, and rewrite the whole thing.

The positive side to this was that as I researched, I found out what the guy was talking about. This was for an industry magazine, and he was a major league person in the industry, for obvious reasons, as I learned to interpret his material. He was a true expert, and I learned as much from extrapolation of his material as I did from my research and phone calls.

He should have been giving lectures. I discovered years ago that non-writers, when you get them on their favorite subject, can be excellent writers. What they lack in technique they make up for with content and originality. This particular person was so good he was still on topic, but had managed to write his way clear out of the brief, or anything resembling it.

The horror of this situation was that I, as a quite new person to the industry, now had to turn this work of expertise into something matching the brief. I tried and tried to use the material I’d been sent, and out of 1000 words managed to fit in about 100. The rest was all rewrite from scratch.

If nothing else, I was better informed. I sent the client a comment saying they should run his stuff as an interview.

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