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Confessions of a copywriter

You had me at the proper use of "you're"As a copywriter, there is an expectation that I have a definitive knowledge of the English language.

Yes, I do know the difference between there, their and they’re, loose and lose and affect and effect; and I know my commas from my colons. [And I ponder why the plural of comma isn’t commae?]

Yes, I write many thousands of words every month on many different topics, can create engaging content on pretty much any topic (including metallurgical supplies which was a new one for me recently) and have achieved an “open” rate above industry standard for my client’s email campaigns which I’m pretty chuffed about, I do admit.

Yes, as copywriters, we’re pretty good but we’re not perfect. But let’s face it, no one is.

Spending a fair amount of time editing other people’s work there are some mistakes I come across again and again.

I just love this article (from via on 15 Common Words that are probably made up.

Highlights for me are:

  • Administrate: A back-formation of administration and an unnecessary extension of administer.
  • Irregardless: An unnecessary extension of regardless on the analogy of irrespective but ignoring that regardless, though it is not an antonym of regard, already has an antonymic affix.

I’m certainly guilty of using:

  • Orientate: A back-formation of orientation and an unnecessary extension of orient.
  • Societal: A variant of social with a distinct connotation (for example, “social occasion,” but “societal trends”).

Consider me suitably chastised.

Other words that irk me are:

  • Pronounciation: A misspelling of pronunciation (one pronounces a word but pronunciation is the way in which the words of a language are made to sound when speaking.)
  • Incentivising / incentivizing: I thought my old boss made this one up but I’ve discovered that this verbal derivative of the noun “incentive” actually originated in the States in 1965-70. Who knew?

Commonly misspelled words that I frequently encounter include:

  • Definiately: a misspelling of definitely that I see constantly.
  • Stationery/stationary: stationery are items from an office shop, to be stationary is to be still. “The stationery truck is stationary.”
  • Accommodation: often misspelled as acommodation/accomodation. Living in a holiday destination I see this constantly and it drives me nuts!
  • Its/it’s: the apostrophe marks a contraction of “it is.” Something that belongs to it is “its.”

It’s hard in the words game to know which words you’ve picked up through osmosis (well, diffusion, technically, as osmosis is via liquid) and which words, turns of phrase and incorrect uses of grammar have become so embedded in your brain that you believe them to be true.

Pronunciation confession here: for 21 years of my life I thought awry was pronounced or-ree as opposed to the correct pronunciation of a-rye.

I’m sure I inspired a few giggles along the way but then again, I think or-ree is far more onomatopoeic. That’s my argument and I’m sticking with it!

I’m a very verbose person (note redundant use of the word “very” just there) but that’s what editing is for.

Don’t just write and publish. Write, review, edit, leave for a bit, come back, read, edit then publish. That’s my process.

What are your most irksome words and grammatical bugbears?


About Jane McKay @janemckaycomms

I’m Jane. I write. I design. I create. In 2009, following a tree-change to sunny East Gippsland, I realised a dream and started my own business through which I have freelanced my marketing services ever since. I understand that marketing your business can be overwhelming, overcomplicated and often overlooked. That’s why I’m here. With a range of expertise built on a Masters in Media and Communications and derived from more than 8 years’ industry experience working with small companies as well as large multi-nationals, I help businesses grow. A creative soul with a strong geek side, I combine my love of wordsmithing with an interest in all things design- and tech-related.The perfect combination of skills for my career in creative marketing.


2 thoughts on “Confessions of a copywriter

  1. I get irritated when I say, for example, “would you like to accompany mum and me to the markets?” and am corrected with “it’s mum and I”. It’s not mum and I in that case, because you’d never say “would you like to accompany I to the markets?”.

    I am always reeducating people to remove the third party to find out if it’s me or I.

    Posted by Split Media (@SplitMediaAu) | February 13, 2013, 4:31 pm

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