Ode to the swipe file

When I first started touting my services as a copywriter back in university, I cast about everywhere I could find for advice about how to get good, keep ideas fresh, and flex my creative muscles.

One of my favourite nuggets of wisdom was this: keep a swipe file.

What’s a swipe file?

A scrapbook (digital or otherwise, each to their own) of snazzy, tasty little chunks of copy that you see on your merry copywriter way around the world. (Say that 5 times fast.)

Why keep one?


It’s a place to go back to for inspiration, to record good practice, and to generally have a fun geeky time with examples of the thing you like to do and get paid for.

Secondly: an antidote to griping

While we all value constructive criticism from peers, we’re not necessarily that forthcoming with it ourselves.

It’s all too tempting to focus on the howlers, the faux pas, the glaring bonkersness that occasionally finds its way out into the public eye through rounds and rounds of creative and client filtering.

When we draw attention to copy gone wrong, we sit safe and smug in the knowledge that it wasn’t us (at least not this time). It’s not brave (especially when you don’t know who wrote it), and it’s not very clever if you only ever sit there going “I wouldn’t have done it like that”. Tempting, but cowardly, and sometimes just downright bad manners. I do it more often than I should.

I wouldn’t begrudge anyone the odd moan or incredulous tweet now and again. We’re only human. However, time and energy are much better spent on compiling bits of copy that are effective, enjoyable, eyeball-grabbing, and figuring out why they’re so good. Such a process might even spark a few good ideas of its own…

So, in the spirit of positivity and not-griping, I give you a selection from my swipe file. I hope you enjoy them.

Choice cuts: my swipe file highlights

1. Two Dots game in-app loading screen

This is a loading screen. A boring, boring place. How can we make it interesting, said the team at Dots? I know, keep the fourth wall well and truly up with bits of themed behind-the-scenes copy like this.

App loading screen

Full disclosure: I tried to choose just one. I couldn’t. I had lots of examples to show you because I play this game, um, a lot.

2. Tesco Summer press ad

Iconic movie reference followed up with a sumptuous sinking of teeth. I’m hungry already.

Press ad

3. M&S in-store leaflet holder

Where there are leaflets, there are often things to put them in, and when you get your very own leaflet stand, you get the opportunity to brand it up too. M&S grabbed that opportunity with a nice little message. It creates the impression that said leaflets are in demand, and diverts a potential customer service dead-end by encouraging the reader to ask for help.

Leaflet holder

4. Tesco Christmas bus-stop ad

Specific product, specific range. Short ‘n’ sweet. Does what it says on the tin. Now feed me.


5. And finally… Lush store door sign

What better way to end this post than with the sign Lush left up when they closed for Christmas. It doesn’t say “Closed” or “Sorry”. It doesn’t have to. Just a friendly reminder about the cold and a promise of what’s to come. What a lovely example of the brand in action.

Brand copy

Written by Chloe Marshall

About markmaking*

mark-making* is an award-winning creative agency specialising in branding, campaigns and communications