Copy: The Devil’s in the Details

The marketing team at The Iron Yard has been building out a myriad of projects, tools and campaigns over the past several weeks. From radio scripts to drip campaigns to deciding the layout for a new page on our website.

We discuss many things as a team, but I’ve noticed lately that we talk about copy constantly. Lelia, our Director of Communications, does a significant amount of actual copywriting, as do I, but the topic of discussion extends to the entire team, be it a creative director or developer. Sometimes our conversations are about really visible, high-impact decisions, like how we name new courses. Other times, we go back and forth about the title of a single part of a larger roadmap that no one but our team will ever see. Oftentimes those discussions—or disagreements—are fueled by intelligent, strongly-held opinions.

Constant refinement of how you say things is a sign of health on any team—especially those whose work is seen and used by the people the company serves.

Why? Most of the conversations on my team focus on clarity. If anyone has a question or is confused about anything we say, there’s a potential problem that needs to be fixed before our customers see or use what we’re making. Thomas Byttebier wrote a post called Copywriting is Interface Design and explains this issue elegantly:1

Bad copy introduces friction. Always. Users will pause and try to figure out what your writing means. That’s a bad thing, knowing that even the tiniest distraction may lead a user astray of the task at hand. On the contrary, good copy will help users fast-forward in reaching their goals.

Those words make me stop and think every single time. “Users will pause and try to figure out what your writing means.” It follows that even the most well-crafted interface can fail because of the words used in it. Considering that almost everything my team produces is some sort of interface, that risk is sobering.

I’m privileged to work with people who will go to battle making sure the small things are clear. If we can find the devil in the details, even if no one but us will ever see the work, we will uphold an even higher standard for the things we release to the world.

1. You can read the original post about copywriting as interface on Thomas Byttebier’s website.

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Practicing the art of bringing guns to a knife fight.

2 thoughts on “Copy: The Devil’s in the Details”

  1. I’ve found this to be quite true, and that means that a “successful” design is often much more of a community project than one might think (strategy + copy+ layout). Design will always only be as strong as the copywriting.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I completely agree that successful design is a group effort. “Good design” and “successful design” aren’t the same thing.

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