3 Things College Won’t Teach You About Copywriting

See failure as part of the processThe term “career path” conjures up something very linear – a journey with a distinct beginning and end. But our professional lives – and really, most aspects of our lives – are rarely so straightforward. There are fits and starts, hits and misses, detours and diversions.

All of which is to say, my current position at Balcom Agency has very little to do with my college and graduate school coursework, which focused on American literature and classical Hollywood cinema.

But I can still draw some fairly clear lines between what I learned in college and what I learned after – especially in terms of copywriting. Here are the big three.

Writing in college

  1. In school you learn the rules. After school you learn to break them.
    Some grammar rules truly help clarify meaning: Take the comma out of “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and we’ve got a horror movie. But some rules were meant to be broken – especially when it comes to making an emotional connection. Fragment sentences are a great example of this. We think and speak in fragments, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t welcome them into our headlines with open arms.
  2. In school you learn big words. After school you learn to not use them.
    A good vocabulary is a reliable sign of intelligence. But when it comes to marketing, we need to appeal as much to the heart as we do to the head – maybe even more so. It's not about dumbing things down; it's about getting to the point. 
  3. In school you learn there’s nothing worse than failing. After school you learn how valuable failure can be.
    This one isn’t limited to copywriting; it isn’t even limited to marketing. In college, a failing grade wreaks havoc on your GPA and, depending on what you want to do with your life, your future prospects. But in the real world, being able to see failure as a part of the process is crucial to risk-taking – and risk-taking is crucial to big rewards. 

Like this? Read the rest of our beyond college series:

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