Jan 24, 2007

Writers Who Can't Write

Blame it on the trend towards “global” concepts—ads that rely on visuals rather than words. Or web banners that don’t require full sentences. Whatever it is, it’s led to a plethora of copywriters who can’t string 2 or 3 sentences together to make a coherent paragraph.

I’m seeing this all too often as I look at the books and websites of prospective writers. Or when I get a simple paragraph block that looks like it was written by someone for whom English is their third or fourth language. I’m not talking stylistic embellishments here, friends, I’m talking basic grammar: using correct verb tenses and pronouns and words that exist in the English language. (e.g. “differenter” is not a word unless you’re using it to mimic the speech of a 3 year old.)

And it baffles me, in a Parkerian manner, that someone with such poor writing skills would decide that being an advertising writer was the career for them. Many “someones.” I mean people who are bad at math don’t become accountants. At a time when we desperately need more good content, with writing that’s clear and coherent and interesting, we’re being inundated by writers who aren’t proficient at any of those things.

Which I guess makes life easier for those who are.


HighJive said...

there's a companion post for art directors who have no sense of design. whether it's rooted in macs that spec the type for you or environments that call creatives "idea people" who direct others to do their bidding, it's pretty amazing to see art directors incapable of creating art — let alone directing it.

Alan Wolk said...

Yup. I just did a project with an older art director. He could draw beautifully, handwrite headlines on a layout so neatly you'd think it was type, and drew everything out before hitting the Mac.

So few junior ADs can do that nowadays. It's why a number of agencies are now using teams of 3- writer, art director and designer.

Anonymous said...

I'm heeerrre. Thanks for inviting me, Toad. :-) I agree about writers that can't write. I'm an AD that has had partners admit they DON'T EVEN LIKE to write. I've had to be a "mother hen" and nag for headlines, copy, etc. -- and then push them to craft the copy. I've also noticed many writer's books are primarily visual solutions. Show me some words. Show me some personality. And if you can write an interesting/entertaining resume & cover letter, all the better. I think no one appreciates great copy as much as an art director (partner.)

Alan Wolk said...

Hey Tessa. Welcome aboard and thanks for your comment.

As a writer, I'm always thrilled when my AD has an opinion about copy-- it's great to have someone to bounce stuff off of-- does the line sound better like this or like that?-- and have the AD make a decision based on language rather than layout.