Copywriting is the act of writing text that is used for the purposes of selling a product, service or idea.
Selling in this sense does not necessarily involve a financial transaction. Rather, it’s about being persuasive—motivating an audience to take a specific action or specific steps that you want them to take.
Copywriting is a science. It is also an art.
On one hand, it relies on proven, time-honoured methods and techniques of gathering an audience’s attention, presenting a business case to them, and convincing them to respond to a call-to-action. On the artful side of the equation, it involves inventiveness and a talent for playing with words in a manner that is memorable to an audience. These two disciplines combined have the potential to inform and entertain an audience. It’s a powerful combination, when done properly.
Traditionally, a copywriter would ply his or her skills in creating direct-mail products, advertising, commercial scripts, billboards, brochures, postcards and sales letters. They often worked in partnership with musicians to develop jingles (and many still do). With the rise of online media, new products have become part of the copywriter’s domain, including web copy, banner ads, email blasts, landing pages, multimedia scripts and presentation content.
Elements of copywriting are also found in feature article writing, social media content, white papers and technical writing, in which the selling imperative isn’t as great, but the need to attract and retain a reader’s attention remains as important as ever.
[Update] Interesting fact: While copywriting has been the home of many successful writers for the duration of their careers, it has also been an important launching pad for many notable fiction authors.