Ok, so for full transparency I am (almost) the proud holder of a Master’s Degree in TESOL and applied linguistics. The purpose of this post is, however, not to tell you how fantastic I am but to highlight the kind of skills you should be looking for in a copywriter and the level of work that goes into crafting your copy and content. I am not the only linguist in this field so there is validity beyond me as an example, I promise!
So, what is linguistics? I seem to have chosen both an area of study and a career where I constantly have to answer what is it I actually do with my time. You can read about what a copywriter is in my previous blog post.
Linguistics is defined as the scientific study of language broadly including structure, sound, and meaning. But language itself is a profoundly difficult thing to define so the range of areas of study within linguistics is vast, ranging from the study of individual phonemes (the structural sounds that make up the smallest elements of languages) to things like forensic linguistics, studying the use of language in the context of civil and criminal law. Interesting? I think so.
This brings me neatly on to my first point:
Linguists Have Broad Interests
Many linguists, like me, find it as a career, or area of study, through less traditional routes. We stumble across it later in life or via other academic routes. I’ve met actors, English teachers and corporate workers from all fields and we all agree we wish we’d found it earlier. It does mean, however, that we possess knowledge of many areas of industry, and the know-how to communicate with people from all walks of life.
There is a fantastic podcast called Lingthusiasm, run by linguists Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne who sell merchandise emblazoned with the phrase “I’m not judging your grammar, just analysing it”. The descriptivist, non-judgemental approach used to analyse language in linguistic study helps the linguistic copywriter know how to effectively write for these groups, with less stereotyping, and more comprehensive knowledge of the communicative uses of language.
The words on the page are merely the final piece of the puzzle, it is a level of deeper understanding of language, strategy, and analysis that sets us apart.
The Power of Language
Knowledge of power structures, combined with how words and sentences are put together from a structural point of view can be applied to improving communication between people. Studying how people use language and why we choose the words we do helps to understand human attitudes and behaviours.
Language plays a huge role in how we perceive the world around us. People tend to underestimate the power of language in building trust and ultimately persuading customers to buy or subscribe. Part of linguistic study looks at how we are influenced by words and phrases, usually without knowing.
“Linguists analyze how certain speech patterns correspond to particular behaviors, including how language can impact people’s buying decisions or influence their social media use.”Dan Jurafsky, Stanford University
Put simply, by talking the same language as your client, a lot of your work is already done.
Increasingly our monetary exchanges, purchases big and small, take place online. You need to make sure your message is being read for maximum impact. And yes, this means regular reviews and updates to your copy are important.
Language and punctuation conventions change and evolve. Words become dated or obsolete and to make sure your copy is still coming up in searches, you need to keep on top of these changes. This is a lot to expect from you or other staff members to take on above and beyond running your business day-to-day, but, for both copywriters and linguists, this IS our business.
Deep Understanding of Language in Society
Language and punctuation use change. Even emojis aren’t universally understood to mean the same thing. Did you know this symbol:🙏was meant to be a high five? Or that 😪 is used in place of 😴 in China?
Language use, in all its forms, is far from static. Understanding this and how different groups in society use and interpret language can help you reach exactly the target audience you want. Language has the power to maximise your message, be loud or soft, funny or serious, all with a tweak of a comma or simple word swap.
A Match Made in Heaven
The benefits of hiring a linguistically trained copywriter are:
- Usually, masters of their native language (and often other languages as well) although we are constantly learning and excited by new developments.
- We are trained to notice problems and find possible answers to explain behaviours and attitudes, this is vital for successful sales and marketing.
- We’ve spent years training in analysing word choice and the “why” behind it, and what that means for the writer, the reader, or the listener.
A linguist can understand and appeal to your audience in a way not all writers are trained to do. That makes them ideal for the job of copywriting.
Something to think about, anyway.
For more information on how professional copywriting can help you, or if you are just interested in anything I’ve talked about please get in in touch.
Are you a linguist or a copywriter? I’d love your feedback, drop me a comment below.