Where has the time gone? The first two months of my copywriting internship at mark-making* have absolutely flown by, and I feel like I’ve already learnt a lot.
I’m an English Language and Literature graduate from Cardiff University with a love for reading and a passion for playing around with words. I’ve always enjoyed writing and am famed amongst friends and family for my essay-length card messages (my philosophy is if you’re paying £3 for a card, you want to make the effort to write a decent length message).
I’ve become increasingly interested in the many ways we use language – from medical humanities to graphic memoirs (a genre I wasn’t really aware of until my last year of university, but one which I would really recommend exploring), communication to marketing – it has an endless list of functions. Language is there to be moulded, and it’s immensely satisfying to make words behave in such a way as to communicate something clearly and in a novel manner.
Something I find really interesting are terms that are “lost in translation”: words from other languages, which concisely express something it takes many words to express in our own. (Also, we really should start adopting these words into our own language because they are simply great.) For example, “shemomedjamo” is a Georgian term, which means “to keep eating despite being full because the food is so delicious”. I think most of us have probably experienced this at some point (I DEFINITELY have), and I feel very strongly that it would be an extremely useful term to have in your vocabulary, especially when helping yourself to “just one more sliver of cake” (it’s a slippery slope).
Despite the endless word choices we have (when we run out we just make more up – “hangry” is now officially in the OED) you still have to pick your words carefully. Something I’ve learnt during my internship and am continuing to try to put into practice (nicely illustrated by the McDonald’s McCafé advert below), is that sometimes things are best kept simple. People don’t want things made unnecessarily complicated. In fact, people don’t generally like things complicated – necessary or not. This is clear from the fact that (shockingly) 90% of us don’t read terms and conditions before agreeing to them. In fact, this has become such an issue that Fairer Finance has started a campaign to encourage companies to compose clear, transparent and simplified versions of their t&cs. Being clever with language is good, but you have to be careful not to lose the meaning (or your reader) along the way.
Combining these various musings and interests with my determination to work in a creative environment – in some ways fuelled by my brief stint into the artistic world (an Art Foundation diploma prior to my degree) – the copywriting internship here at mm* was just what I was looking for.
In my relatively short time here I’ve already learnt a huge amount. I’ve been working on a little bit of everything: from finding the last couple of words needed to complete brand guidelines to composing much more substantial chunks of copy for campaigns, proofreading website page plans to conducting interviews to inform an event programme. I’ve worked on copy for a range of different clients – the massive variety day-to-day is both challenging and enjoyable.
I thought I had pretty good attention to detail before I started my internship, but I’ve become even more tuned in to noticing grammatical slip-ups, which is both incredibly satisfying, and a real exercise in self-control outside of work. As someone once said, and I think this is true for most copywriters, editors and general wordsmiths: ‘my life is a constant battle between wanting to correct grammar and wanting to have friends’.
I’m also much more aware of the thought processes behind content. I often find myself automatically analysing copy I see around me – whether it’s an email I receive from a company or a leaflet I’ve picked up – judging if I think it’s successful or not (have I reacted to it in the way the copywriter intended?) and mentally noting the do’s and don’ts to apply to my own work.
I’ve also learnt that title case is more problematic than I ever thought it could be. I didn’t think it was possible to have such strong feelings about capitalisation, but I’m now a serious sentence case convert.
I’ve still got lots to learn, but feel very lucky to be working with a crazy-talented bunch of people, and I’m determined to inhale as much knowledge as I can during my internship and put it straight into practice. I’m absolutely delighted to be here at mark-making* and very much looking forward to all that is to come.
Original author, Marianne Fish