‘I don’t like how he installed that shower, you know. I’m going to pull out a few tiles and move those pipes around.’
For the most part, those aren’t sentences that you’re likely to hear about a bathroom fitter.
And, in general, that’s true for most classic tradesmen. Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, you name it. And it’s also true for people in other professions:
- Lawyers – ‘These contract restrictions aren’t exhaustive enough. To the library!’
- Dentists – ‘Let’s redo that root canal. Gloves, please!’
- Doctors – ‘Well, I really do think the incision ought to go here.’
- Pilots – ‘This glide slope is sub-optimal. Hand me the controls.’
No, such comments are rarely made. I won’t say ‘never’ because some people will always think they know best (hi, Mum, even though you’ll never read this). And I think most readers would agree that it’s quite right not to assume that you could do something better than a trained professional.
When the normal rules don’t seem to apply
The problems come about when we start talking about something that most people can already do – or think they can do.
Putting aside the usual badge of honour – ‘Well, I didn’t pay much attention at school, ha ha!’ – most people will think they can put together a sentence. And yes, they probably can.
But what happens when you’re trying to write something that convinces someone of something? That gets them to get up off their backsides and do something? Or that explains clearly how something works? Guess what: that ain’t easy.
That’s where hired help comes in
For those who need to write some words to explain how their business works (which is just about every business owner), the commonly worn paths are:
- Do it yourself
- Get Barry in Sales to take a look
- Hire a professional copywriter
I’m not saying DIY/Barry are the wrong paths. Either might end up leading to a cottage that isn’t full of wolves (i.e., a half-decent result).
What I am saying is that hiring a professional copywriter could well be the right path. There’s a reason why grown-up businesses trust professional copywriters to produce their written content: because, on the whole, that’s what gets results.
It’s more of a trap than a problem, really. Business owners find the courage to hire a pro writer (woo!) and then feel compelled to tinker with the content the writer produces (boo!).
It reminds me of a saying I heard recently: ‘Don’t buy a dog and then bark yourself.’
I’m not saying it’s easy to pay for a bunch of words on a page and then resist the temptation to play around with them a bit. Sometimes, it’s necessary and appropriate (on technical/legal grounds, for example). But, generally, here’s the thing: you need to trust your copywriter.
What you shouldn’t do is review all the text and then start adding in long and winding bits to various sentences. Or shoving in an extra paragraph of crappy marketing bumf. That’s going to dilute the message that your copywriter has spent hours (probably days and days) crafting.
I recently talked with my marketing buddy Roger Edwards about keeping text simple, clear and understandable. You can listen to our chat on Roger’s podcast here:
Note this: if you are one of those constant tinkerers and you do go and fiddle with your copywriter’s content and then the copy doesn’t end up achieving what you wanted it to, then you probably won’t have any grounds to raise an eyebrow at the copywriter and say ‘Your words didn’t work’. Perhaps they would have if they hadn’t been touched.
Or perhaps the untouched words wouldn’t have worked (few copywriters would be so cheeky as to make bold claims about what their copy might be able to achieve for you). But the point is, without that trust in the craft of your copywriter, you won’t know how your copy would have fared in its original form. Think about that and then consider whether you really want to make those edits after all.
Over to you
What do you think about trusting your copywriter? Do you do it religiously? Or are you a born fiddler? If you’re a copywriter, are you OK with clients mangling your copy? What about when they change it and the result is even better? Do you feel inadequate? How precious should copywriters be about the words they produce for their clients? Let me know by leaving a comment below, or catch up with me on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.
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Who wrote this?
I'm John Espirian, the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter. I've written about IT and the web since 1998, and I'm a former Microsoft MVP. If you need B2B web content that explains how your products, services and processes work, I'm your guy.
The Espirian blog provides writing tips and how-to guides on improving your online presence and marketing your business.
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