Why copywriting is called ‘copywriting’?

When I introduce myself as a ‘copywriter’, some people are puzzled by what I do. Those who know the profession also wonder, why ‘what we write’ is called a ‘copy’. To ease matters, here it is.

Copywriting is the  act of writing copy (text) for the purpose of advertising or marketing a product, business, person, opinion or idea etc. The addressee (reader, listener, viewer etc.) of the copy is meant to be persuaded to buy the product advertised for, or subscribe to the viewpoint the text shares.

The copywriters may use different sources to make the material ready to be copied. Also, copywriters may use words / phrases / sayings / anything else, that already exists, to create something. But that is not the reason it is called ‘copy’.

The term copywriting seems to date from the explosion of modern journalism and newspapers in the nineteenth century. The term ‘copy’ here comes from the definition 4 of Merriam-Webster for the noun ‘copy‘:

a. matter to be set especially for printing

b. something considered printable or newsworthy

c. text especially of an advertisement

Rather than meaning that the writer ‘copied’ the material (which is ‘plagiarism‘), it means, that it is the material that is intended to be copied – that is, reproduced and printed in the newspaper or ad for all to read.

P.S. The ‘copy’ above has used various sources.

8 thoughts on “Why copywriting is called ‘copywriting’?

  1. Its a nice piece of work done ! short simple and straight ! liked it ! nice 🙂

  2. Taranjeet Kaur says:

    Samajh mein aa gaya ji, good hai ji…likhte raho!!!

  3. Uma Shah says:

    Short and sweet, but sends the exact message meant to be conveyed. Powerful it is.

  4. Thanks a lot for the appreciative words!

  5. I’ve been a copywriter for 45 years. Few people in advertising actually know the origin of the title. It’s very simple. Newspaper reporters traditionally typed their articles on quarto (A5) sheets of paper. One paragraph per sheet. Carbon paper was used to make two duplicates or O + 2; (Original plus two copies). When the reporter completed writing his article he would call for the “copy boy”. This was an office junior who would collect the original and the first carbon copy. He would deliver the original to the Compositor who would set the type for the print run. The first carbon copy went to the Sub Editor. The reporter kept the second carbon copy for his file. This is how the words in print came to be called copy. Advertising also borrowed the terms Headline, Sub-Head and Caption. The remaining words in an advertisment were given the name “body copy”.

  6. Thanks a lot Maurice, for sharing your invaluable knowledge! So kind of you!!

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