3 min Read
September 18, 2013

Dear future copywriting interns…

Intern Sam

Dear future Copywriting Interns (assuming they haven’t abolished your position following my incumbency),

Huzzah! I’m Sam, Big Duck’s Copywriting Intern. Having been flung, quacking and splashing, into the blog pond and having always fancied myself a Scottish Aristotle, I’ve decided to compile my newfound wisdom for the sake of posterity. Copywriting Interns yet to come, pay attention…

Less is more—except when more is more.

As previously illustrated by Katherine Lindstedt, good writing is a very written thing—it’s been shaped, trimmed, shortened and compacted, transformed from a flabby, imprecise blob into a honed wording machine that makes its points without overstaying its welcome. It’s one of the most satisfying things about being a writer, the process of  chipping away at a slab of English until, fleck by fleck, its sleekest fraction appears. (No, I’m not actually a sculptor, I just really like analogies.)

That being said, however, don’t let brevity become a fetish. If something’s complex and multifaceted, don’t simplify for simplicity’s sake or omit details just to fulfill some prescribed idealised pithiness. Sometimes words need allies. Don’t abandon them.

When it comes to taglines (of which you will write a million squillion, I assure you)…

  • Imitate Alexander the Great (just without the delusions of grandeur and imperialism): but seriously, take a moment to ruminate, then cut a swath through that foreboding blank page in pursuit of eternal tagline glory. It’s liberating. You’ll find a groove and more than likely turn up some interesting results. Go for it.

  • Think laterally: allow your mind to flow sideways, almost tangentially. Travel through space and line, brainstorming, word associating, in search of truth and sentence transcendence to a tagline Valhalla where a countless thousand taglines feast and slay clichés. Then quickly write them all down before you forget.

  • Judge yourself: be objective. Do your taglines fulfill the brief? Do they reflect the organization’s personality and positioning? Have you pretty much written the same taglines twice, changed the organization’s mission and forgotten their goals? Yeah, I thought so. Comb through it. Be selective. Keep the literal, the experimental, and the cadence making. Now go get feedback.  

The three laws of Duckbotics.

  • Vampire Weekend may be decidedly apathetic about the Oxford Comma, but the Ducks are fans. For those of you who consider it weird, unnatural, and discombobulating, you have my sympathy. But just humor them, ok?  

  • “Impact” is a no-no word. Seriously, never use it. Never ever. Banish it to the cerebral equivalent of Siberia. Cast it into the fiery core of Mount Doom. Hide it in the wood shed and never mention it again. Got it?

  • Under no circumstances should you get a grilled cheese sandwich from the grilled cheese sandwich van. There be revolting dragons.

And the nub of it?

Although it’s possible (very technically speaking), it’s unlikely you’ll intern at another place quite like Big Duck. The Ducks are clever and generous, the office is a productive banterous reading room, you’ll be given real work on real projects for real clients, and by the end of it, after thousands of words and excellent tutelage, you’ll be a great catch for employers.

But that’s not the best thing. The best thing is you get to keep your soul. That’s right; no flogging cigarettes to kids or squeezing snake oil here. Instead you’ll learn—as I have—that Big Duck works with nonprofits who, selflessly and without much fanfare, champion important but sometimes unsung causes, courageously doing their bit to improve the human experience.  

And you, Copywriting Intern, get to write for them; you get to make the world a little fairer, a little more informed, and a slightly better place to live. You get to make a real imp—————