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What is copywriting?

What is copywriting? A sign on the side of the road reading "beer and lobster. enough said", with an arrow pointing. This is a great example of good copywriting
What is copywriting? (Photo by Mark König)

If you had to count, how many times have you seen, heard or read the word ‘wellbeing’? We're talking deep breathing, regular exercise, yoga, meditation, etc. I imagine a modest count would be… 1 million times? Yep, me too.

The thing is, we all understand, on a basic level, that these things are good for us. But how many of us tick off these practices on a daily basis? Yes – we should seek enlightenment and align our chakras, and find a deep source of inner peace, but, ya know, there’s TikTok scrollin’ that won’t scroll itself.

So, what gives?

I know the problem isn’t that we’re all a bunch of raving masochists, on a relentless mission to make our own lives miserable. Fundamentally, at our hearts and deep in our survival-instinct brains, we want good things for ourselves.

But why don't we do those good things?

The answer came to me when I was introduced to a wholly different approach to the “be more wellness” chorus. As it happens, it came from a former news anchor. Yes, the guy in the suit with the smile and the “Welcome back to Good Morning America, I’m Dan Harris”.

His approach dodged the nebulous “feel more centred” talk and cut straight to the heart of why he was such a huge advocate of meditation.

His premise (detailed in his book) is simple: if you practice mindful meditation for just a few minutes every day, you will feel 10% happier.

Reading this was like throwing open a window, in a room thick with dust and heat. It was a refreshing, enlivening argument. The combination of giving just one, specific benefit – a hugely compelling one at that – along with a specific metric, was gold.

It grounded the promise of “wellness”, so I could see exactly how it would improve my life.

As soon as the concept of meditation being ‘good for me’ was reframed in a way that led with the benefit, was specific to my problem (not being as happy as I’d like), and had a tangible, comprehensible way of putting it all in context, I was sold.

Since then, I’ve made meditation a non-negotiable in my toolkit for looking after myself – and it has given me far more than an uptick of 10% happiness.

And wouldn’t you know it, this is what copywriting is.

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is the art of encouraging someone to carry out an action by presenting them with a compelling, meaningful, benefit-led message.

Yes, there are many types of copy (long-form, UX, ATL, marketing, product etc etc) – but at its heart, copy is simple (though of course, simple isn’t the same as easy).

The action we’re looking for is usually a sale, or maybe an email address to be handed over, or a like and comment – and many things in between. But fundamentally, that’s it.

Grammar can be taught, spelling can be looked up – what’s most important is the crux of copywriting.

If you can move someone to action by showing them a meaningful, specific and benefit-led message, then you may well be a pretty good copywriter.

And as it happens, doing work that aligns with your skills is a great way to get 10% happier, too.


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