I’m a copywriter, but at the moment my role is mostly editing other people’s copy. The most eloquent people can come across as forced and far too formal in print (and onscreen), and it’s my job to make them sound human again and to bring clarity to what often comes over as chaotic rambling.
If this sounds unfair, it’s not meant to be. I’ve worked with all sorts and have found that often the best educated fall down when it comes to expressing themselves. There is an assumption that wordiness equates to authority and that formality is necessary to convey this.
I read web pages, reports, advertising copy (and even other people’s emails when they ask for advice on tone), and I set about tracking changes or wielding the old HB pencil. I then give back the copy in the hope that I have made what they are trying to say more effective. I also hope that I haven’t put anyone’s nose out of joint in doing so. Ninety-nine per cent of the time this isn’t an issue. Every so often though, someone will throw their toys out of the pram at the perceived hubris that I may have sullied their carefully wrought prose.
Either way, I’m paid for a particular set of skills and not to pander to ego. In my more pretentious moments I invoke Albert Camus’ image of being a happy Sisyphus. In my less considered moments I please myself with the realisation that I haven’t beaten anyone with an office chair in years and that each time refuse to do so, I save a life.
This is fulfilment that puts my copywriting skills right up there next to those of a fireman or a trauma surgeon in terms of good deeds done.