Copywriting is a highly particular type of writing that requires a great deal of thought and precision to create effective work. Many writers are enchanted by the idea of being a copywriter. After all, your work will be widely circulated, and you’ll get the opportunity to produce a ton of content. In my time at Boxcar, I’ve found a couple of key differences between writing copy and writing any other type of communication.

Copy needs to be easily processed.

Digital interactions are fast-paced, so the job of the advertiser is to quickly catch the attention of a consumer and engage with them. The digital space is not the appropriate arena to use lofty, superfluous language and appeal to consumers’ deep-seated emotions, beliefs, or convictions. Copywriters have only a few seconds to catch the attention of their audience, so copy must be quickly and easily understood.

Copy must be succinct, always.

Due to the fast pace of the digital landscape, digital advertising is not the place to show off how impressive your personal lexicon is. Because the primary goals of copy are to clearly communicate a message and move the consumer to act on that message, writing must be clear and direct. If you like writing because you like the art and poetics of language, copywriting might not be the type of writing for you, since it requires you to utilize precise and direct language. One of the projects I was recently included on was a banner project. Most of the copy I wrote for this project was a bit excessive. Once I saw it written on a banner, I understood what the rest of the team meant when they said it looked “copy-heavy.” Long words and lengthy call to actions don’t fare well in media that is meant to be consumed quickly.

Copy should move its reader or listener to do something.

The phrase “call to action” (or CTA) is tossed around quite a bit by advertisers and marketers. “Call to action” refers to the section of copy that calls the reader, viewer, or listener to perform an action, whether that’s buying a product, clicking a banner, or liking a Facebook post. Without a clear and effective call to action, digital ads don’t work.

Clearly, copywriting is distinct from every other form of writing in that it requires a writer to be remarkably precise and versatile. Sometimes a copywriter will need to utilize purely technical terminology and other times will need to appeal to more abstract ideas while still using succinct, down-to-earth language. Because of these differences, the copywriter is required to engage in mental and creative acrobatics in ways that other creative writers do not.