Colorful Things

Starting as a copywriter in an industry of which I held average knowledge – about furniture, the difference between a pattern and a solid, that light bulbs have differing wattages, and perhaps a couple more – was a little intimidating, I’ll admit. Luckily, my co-workers hold much more than an average knowledge and are [still] willing to teach me and give me resources related to specific terms, period pieces, patterns, materials, and more (who knew that rugs can have varying piles and that velour and velvet are actually significantly different enough to warrant a differentiation, and that Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs are popular folk art symbols used on décor and not something to curse your enemies with). And luckily, I’m interested in learning about these characteristics and more – like how wool appliqued pillows can absolutely not be put in the washing machine. This is important to my copy primarily because most of this information is necessary in accurately describing the products, but also because I can be more creative when I know the history of cherished folk art traditions and how to describe certain textures and colors – especially since I am writing for a customer who most likely knows more about these things than I do.

Not knowing specific qualities of the things I surround myself with doesn’t mean I am into bland, colorless accents (although my favorite color to dress myself in is black). And yes, I like to surround myself with *things,* although as I think about it, significant, common accumulation is most apparent in three categories: books, coffee mugs, and blankets/throws. And writing about décor has pushed me further into knowing what styles I like (and dislike), which is appearing to me less like a mixed bag and more like complementary comforts in varieties of colors and patterns (and genres if we’re talking about books and literature).



“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” a polka-dotted, purple whitewashed mug, and a red and white soft blanket featuring an ikat pattern (fringed, but you can’t see that in the picture)

What makes it easier for me to write about décor I wouldn’t necessarily put into my own apartment, is that somewhere someone is looking at a 60’s style chair in our catalog and when I specify it’s velour and not velvet and the pattern is a lover’s knot, that description triggers a memory of a childhood home, treasured family history, or some other heart-string-tugger; and that I can relate to. It’s not shallow to put such high value on inanimate objects, because we’re either comforting ourselves physically or seeking comfort in memories that hold mental and emotional value to us outside of said physical object.

I am definitely not a minimalist when it comes to objects and keeping things (the term is not “pack-rat,” it’s “collector”). Too many things hold too many memories and comforts for me to even think about getting rid of them, and really, why should I contribute to the garbage piles of the world by throwing things away (I know this is a little contradictory because of the potentially trashy processes carried out to create these things I love, but sometimes I like to hide behind the smoke cloud that is the fact I do keep all of these things)? I truly don’t believe I’m excessive; gold bathrooms are unnecessarily silly and…okay I have serious distaste with gold bathrooms and I just wanted to get that out. But don’t think for a second if I see or feel a beautifully made throw or a sassy, charming mug I won’t purchase it in a minute. They may cover every inch of my apartment and seem like they don’t coordinate, but through writing for items that comfort other people I’ve decided that I’m completely comfortable with holding these items close to me; and hey, even if you disagree with me you’ll always be warm, have something to read, and have something from which to drink when you visit me. Excellent memory making ingredients.


“How to Write Good”

*This appeared on my previous blog on December 30th, 2014

As many of you know, I recently started working as a copywriter for a home décor/furnishings magazine. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, I will describe it as simply as possible. I write copy.

Now some of you reading this might be thinking: “Oh, of course.” But most of the people I believe are reading this are thinking: “Ha ha, very funny. But what do you really do?”

That is what I really do. But more specifically, I write descriptions for products, edit those descriptions scrupulously, and write them again. I am learning terms for fabric; I’ve learned how to say “primitive” about 20 different ways; and I’m becoming much more intimate with dictionaries and thesauruses. Thesaurusi? Just kidding, it’s thesauruses. I’m also learning about the many stages of magazine production – there are a lot more than I thought. And, I’m continuing to understand how the art of copywriting is truly underrated.

Writing product descriptions: how hard could it be? Well, thankfully my technical writing education at UMaine prepared me for how hard it can be. Sometimes, copy comes so easily for an item, and other times I could stare at an item for five minutes and not come up with anything. Additionally, some items have important parts that need to be in the copy – like if an item requires assembly, batteries, light bulbs, special cleaning instructions, and so on. Pair that with limited space on a page or within a layout, and there is potential for limited creativity and description. Also, because of space, sometimes grammar isn’t a priority. Which brings me to the main point of my post today.

Grammar. Yes, the fact that sometimes I have to sacrifice grammar to make room for a four word-titled item with two adjectives that “need” to go before that title makes me cringe. But to keep me from going super insane, I recall a list of “rules” I learned in college, and when I Googled those rules (entitled “How to Write Good,” and written by Frank L. Visco) I found them combined with a few others; I have included a link to the page below. They are all problems I have encountered, before and during my [short] time as a copywriter, and while I try to usually follow them, sometimes it is just necessary to break them. Well, some of them. The irony of these rules is that most of them are frequently broken in academic, technical and creative writing. Most of these rules are situational, and require the judgment of the writer. So when I’m feeling frustrated that my sentences are fragmented or I only have room to end a sentence with a preposition, or when I use unnecessary modifiers like “super” (see above), I look at this list and breathe a little easier – and take on the next writing project or piece of copy.

Happy writing!