I read this clever article a while ago about treading the fine line between creative copywriting and using correct grammar and punctuation. It made me realise that my two specialties – copywriting and editing – are sometimes in complete conflict with each other.
I have to pop on the ‘right hat’ to meet the particular needs of each project. When writing a creative ad, blog or social post, I need to let the words flow rather than being distracted by prescriptive grammar and punctuation guidance. When editing or proofreading, I use a strict list of rules to ensure consistency, accuracy and readability. Tracked changes at the ready.
No matter the project, each job must start with the purpose, the audience and the client’s brief. Once I understand these, I pose a few other questions (to myself or the client) to find the balance and choose the ‘right hat’, such as:
- Is the piece to ‘sell’ or to ‘inform’, or both?
- Does the tone of voice reflect the organisation/writer?
- Will inconsistencies distract or attract the reader?
- Where will the piece be released – on the web, socials or in print?
- What has been released to this audience before? How does this piece compare?
- Have you or your client made an assumption about the reader’s knowledge of the topic? How complex is the content?
Creative and clear
Ideally, writing should be creative and clear. The words should impart a persuasive, readable message that connects with the reader.
Thankfully, most government and business communicators aim to write using plain language these days, which helps to simplify without ‘dumbing down’. It’s the type of writing that really helps to cut through the masses of words reaching our eyeballs every single day.
So, aim for a mix of creativity and clarity. And when you can’t find the balance, find someone who can pop on a few different hats to deliver the right mix of creativity, judgement and skill.