Invisible Man bottle of wine label

Copywriting tip 8: Be invisible

Invisible Man bottle of wine label trimmed

Copywriting is unlike any other type of writing.

If you’re a journalist, your name is in the byline.

Write a novel, your name is on the cover.

A film script or play, and your name’s in lights.

Not so for the copywriter. We are invisible – or should be.

Sadly, as a copywriter you’ll only be famous at home, or in several well-known advertising pubs and haunts.

(Interestingly, there’s a long list of copywriters who got fed up with being anonymous and wrote their novel. I worked with one at George Patts: the wonderful Bryce Courtenay. Peter Carey, another Aussie copywriter-turned-novelist. Salman Rushdie. The list goes on.)

The art of great copy is the art of being invisible. You, the copywriter, should never be seen or heard in the copy.

This is about writing in the brand tone of voice, not your own.

Ruler, pencil, rubber and sharpener

I envy designers and art directors.

Every brief for them comes with a style guide. A very detailed document.

Colours, typefaces, logos – all clearly explained.

There are layout grids. Guides for photography. Secondary colour palettes. Dos and don’ts.

‘This is how we do things. Don’t deviate.’

How refreshing that must be. Frustrating, yes, to be so constrained. But wonderful in being given clear direction.

Copywriters aren’t so lucky. There’s usually a page or two in the style guide on ‘voice’. How they treat numbers, bullet points, apostrophes, dates.

Nowhere near the level of detail in a visual style guide.

If you’re going to be invisible, you need to be told how to write. A verbal style guide is a great place to start.

(I’ve helped develop many over the years. Let me know if you’d like my help with that.)

No verbal style guide? There’s another option.

Four business hands fist bumping

The one thing all companies have is a set of values.

You can find them on their website. Under ‘About’.

If you’re not sure how to match the tone of the brand you’re writing for, use their values as a guide.

For example.

One of my clients has a brand value of ‘courage‘. So, when I write, I check my copy to make sure it demonstrates courage.

Instead of writing:

Learn more about how we are responding to the COVID-19 situation.

You would show courage with:

COVOD-19 challenges us all. Here’s how we’re working with customers to address it.

It’s an attitude.

So, I’m sorry if you ever thought you’d be famous as a copywriter. You won’t.

But being invisible means you’re doing your job: writing on behalf of someone, or something, else. That’s what copywriters do.

It’s what makes copywriting unique.

And keeps it fresh as a career.

You never get bored as a copywriter. Because you’re constantly changing hats. Today, I’m courage. Tomorrow, I’m empathy. Then I’m humble.

Be invisible.

Enjoy being famous: in a non-famous sort of way.


This tip is based on my 30 Tips in 40 Minutes webinar.

Feel free to download a version of the slides and watch a video of the one-hour webinar.

Image source: Pixabay


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Jon Maxim

Jon is a multi-award winning copywriter. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients – large and small – develop engaging concepts, content and copy. For 25 of those years, he’s been teaching people how to do it themselves. His courses on copywriting, ideation and presentation skills are highly sought-after and highly effective. Jon lives in Sydney, Australia: but is often found on a plane, heading to where he’s most needed.