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Why Is It Called Copywriting? Origins of a Legendary Skill

Updated on September 26, 2023

Why is it called copywriting?

This has intrigued numerous people… including myself.

The term seems paradoxical at first glance…

Because writing isn’t about copying.


In this context… “copy” doesn’t refer to duplication or replication…

But it’s tied up with a rich history and evolution.

Why it’s called copywriting holds the key to understanding what makes this field so unique and powerful in today’s digital age.

I did some digging…

And here’s the answer.

The History of Copywriting

The term “copy” has a fascinating history that dates back to its Latin roots.

It is derived from the word “copia,” which means abundance or supply. 

And that evolved into the English word “copious” or plenty.

Our modern understanding of copy took shape due to booming journalism and advertising in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Newspapers began using this term for text intended for printing…

And that marked a significant milestone when the term “copy” entered modern society.

How “Copy” Became Synonymous with Writing?

“Copy” underwent a significant transformation moving away from being associated solely with duplication or reproduction towards representing written content meant for publication or broadcast.

The mainstream evolution is credited mainly to Emory John Powers, the first recorded full-time copywriter.

This dude.

John Emory PowersPin

His pioneering approach revolutionized how businesses communicated their offerings, setting us toward today’s practice of writing persuasive copy that resonates with readers.

You could say he was the Godfather of modern-day copywriting.

What Is the Role of Copywriters Today?

Modern copywriting goes beyond just crafting text…

It involves creating content that:

  • Resonates with the target audience
  • Is persuasive
  • Is captivating
  • Can satisfy search algorithms (SEO Copywriting)

The foundation of many copywriting frameworks has stayed relatively the same since the old days…

Except for one particular type of copywriting because of the dot com bubble.

That is SEO copywriting.

It involves crafting web copies to engage readers and for better visibility on search engines.

This requires strategically including relevant keywords in their content – a process known as keyword research.

This ensures a higher ranking in search engine results, leading to more website traffic.

Besides keyword research…

Understanding user intent is integral to writing engaging blog posts or articles by predicting what information users seek online and fulfilling those needs through well-written pieces.

Why is it Called Copywriting (FAQs)

What Is the Root Word for Copywriting?

The root word for “copywriting” comes from Latin’s “copia,” meaning abundance. This transformed over time in English usage, eventually becoming associated with writing promotional content.

What Does the Copy in Copywriting Mean?

The “copy” in copywriting denotes any text created for marketing or advertising purposes to persuade an audience towards specific actions or beliefs.

Do the Terms “Copywriting” and “Copy” Refer to Two Different Things?

No, “copywriting” is derived from “copy.”

“copy” is the noun form, while “copywriting” is the act of creating it.

Why Is There Confusion About the Etymology of Copywriting?

There is confusion because “copy” can mean various things.

In journalism, it’s news articles or reports.

In marketing, it can be advertisement text, blog articles, or headlines.

To a layman, it’s simply duplicating.

Is It True That Copywriters Were Once Called ‘Ad Men’?

Copywriters were responsible for creating creative ad copies that effectively promoted products or services.

Yes, that’s true. They were not just called “ad men” but also the “father of modern creative advertising.” This term was more popular during the Mad Men era of the 1960s.

Why Is It Copy and Not Copies?

The singular form “copy” is used instead of “copies” because it refers to the text as a whole rather than individual instances.

If you want to refer to multiple instances clearly, you can say, “How many more pieces or pages of copy are left?”

What Makes Copywriting Different From Writing?

Copywriting differs from writing in its purpose to persuade or sell, use of persuasive language, targeting specific audiences, concise format, and adaptability to various platforms and contexts.

Writing is to educate or entertain.

To Sum Up

Copywriting is a fascinating blend of art and science…

It’s not duplication.

The term “copy” traces its roots back to the Latin word “copia,” evolving over centuries into modern usage in journalism and advertising.

Today’s copywriters craft compelling content that compels both humans and machines.

They’re not writers…

But literary wizards who know how to turn words into action no matter the environment.

I stand by saying that copywriting is the ultimate skill to have as a creator if you want to make money.

Interested in becoming a copywriter yet?

brendan aw black pic

About Brendan Aw

I’m an ex-marketing executive for 6 & 7-figures high-growth startups turned writer, creator & entrepreneur. I share my learnings on digital entrepreneurship, personal finance, and remote working while helping run my family’s crystal chandelier business.

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