Confessions of a foreign copywriter. By @maryjohansen_

Marianne Wathne Johansen

By Marianne Wathne Johansen


Confessions of a foreign copywriter


I’m Norwegian, and I’m a copywriter. As a result, I’m often asked how it feels, and whether or not it presents any problems. I completely get where these questions are coming from, but I’d argue that sometimes there’s an advantage to not being British.


At SCA, we’re taught that there’s a big difference between being a great writer and being a great copywriter. This is where I believe the foreigner’s biggest advantage lies — in not-so-fancy writing. Copywriting should feel like conversation. I don’t mean text message-writing such as “How r u m8?”, but it shouldn’t include words that you’d never use in daily life (unless you’re unusually posh). As a foreigner, you may know many English words, but they’re not all part of your daily vocabulary. So when writing, you’d never write words such as sagacious, feeble, unyielding, solemn, perilous or vivacious. Why not? They’re not exactly conversational, and for a foreigner, they certainly won’t be the first words to spring to mind. They may be the last, but they probably won’t spring to mind at all.


Maybe non-British people think more conversational, maybe not. Regardless, there’s very little chance we’d use words you wouldn’t understand. And as a copywriter, you wouldn’t want your audience to need a thesaurus to understand your copy, because guess what — they’d rather stop reading.


The Internet has made being foreign very easy, and although I’ll never be British, I wouldn’t be if I could. I’m a proud Scandinavian, and with that comes weird world views, an obsession with Norse mythology, cultural differences and funny accents that may some day be the difference an advertising campaign needs to stand out.


Sure, we foreigners might need a thesaurus to find a wider variety of words now and then, but who doesn’t? I guess what I’m trying to say is that sure, it’s hard to be a great copywriter, but we’re willing to work our arses off to achieve greatness in our writing. And if we aren’t, we’re at the wrong school.

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