The origin of copywriting and copywriter...

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Ever wonder why what we write is confusingly called "copy."

It's all because because of an archaic definition.

Here's one of the definitions Noah Webster gave for copy in 1828:
An original work; the autograph; the archetype. Hence, that which is to be imitated in writing or printing. Let the child write according to the copy. The copy is in the hands of the printer. Hence, a pattern or example for imitation. His virtues are an excellent copy for imitation.
To us, the phrase "original copy" is an oxymoron. To our forebears it was redundant.

This definition had fallen out of use by the mid nineteenth century, except among printers and newspapermen.

Some time around 1870, the man who wrote the advertisements began to be called the copy writer, to distinguish his work from that of the news writer.

Translated into Modernese, copywriter and copywriting become originalwriter and originalwriting.

Another archaic definition of copy: Abundance, or wealth.

Still fits.
#copywriter #copywriting #origin
  • Interestingly enough, the following defintions were not at dictionary.com before the discussion at my thread, which is linked to in my signature.

    4.
    the text of a news story, advertisement, television commercial, etc., as distinguished from related visual material.
    5. the newsworthiness of a person, thing, or event (often preceded by good or bad ): The president is always good copy. Compare news ( def. 4 ) .

    If these defintions had been there, I would have been like, hell, so keep on saying copy like you are.

    For this reason, I shall only refer to sales copy as sales letters because the following sentences sound stupid, unless you know that copy is being used to replace news.

    "He wrote sales copy for his friend."

    "I'm going to write sales copy for my new product."

    We can't tell if the above sentences means 1 or 2.

    1. He wrotes a sales letter for his friend.
    2. He wrote sales letters for his friend.

    But if we were to modify news, then we add an indefinite article, but with copy we don't, which makes it very weird.

    He wrote a news report.

    You can't say copy report, right? So copy isn't always interchangable with the word news.
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  • Holy copies, that other thread is spreading like a virus into this one.
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  • Profile picture of the author eugenedm
    Interesting! Original copy = copywriting. You're right copywriting always has to be original if we want to hook more people. (Fingers crossed), I want copy to lead to abundance and wealth.
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  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    masterpainting - look at this and see if maybe you get it: Copy of Countable and Uncountable Nouns by ryan ric mary on Prezi

    It explains the different between countable and uncountable nouns, which is where you're mixing yourself up. Copy is both countable (a copy of a book, two copies of a worksheet) and uncountable (ad copy, copy for the sales banners).
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    • Profile picture of the author Steve Hill
      Originally Posted by angiecolee View Post

      masterpainting - look at this and see if maybe you get it: Copy of Countable and Uncountable Nouns by ryan ric mary on Prezi

      It explains the different between countable and uncountable nouns, which is where you're mixing yourself up. Copy is both countable (a copy of a book, two copies of a worksheet) and uncountable (ad copy, copy for the sales banners).
      You probably sprained some brains out there with that one, but here's another way for masterpaintingnow to look at it:

      A copywriter writes copy. Therefore he/she is a writer of copy, or a copy writer, but the skill itelf is known as copywriting, and it is done by copywriters.

      All clear now?
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