One of the key functions of a professional copywriter is to take a business’ jargon and terminology and present it clearly and concisely in a way that can be easily understood by non-expert readers.
It is quite ironic then that the word used to describe this service actually baffles many members of the public.
The ‘writing’ part is fairly self-explanatory, but ‘copy’ throws some people off the scent. That’s because it is essentially a piece of trade jargon of the kind we would probably scribble over in red pen if it related to a client’s business.
Throw in the copywriting / copyrighting confusion and things don’t get any easier for the unaccustomed observer.
Copy is a fairly catch-all term for written material. Journalists submit copy to their editor, as do authors. Advertising agencies refer to any written material in their campaigns as copy.
As far as we know, the usage of the word has its origins in the days of the typewriter, when you would make carbon copies of whatever it was you happened to be writing. You’d no doubt keep the original while filing your copy to your editor. The phrase has stuck (at least among professionals).
In essence, copywriting means the writing of written material. The clumsiness of that particular phrase probably explains why the word ‘copywriting’ has survived this long.
If you’re coming into contact with the word copywriting being used as a noun, the chances are it’s referring to content that is being written for marketing, advertising or promotional purposes.
As with most trade jargon, copywriting is an unnecessary complication of a pretty straightforward concept.