A copywriter's bookshelf | DMA

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A copywriter's bookshelf


What sits on the shelf of the discerning copywriter? I’ve got no idea, but here’s what’s on mine.

I love books.

I love them so much I punch myself in the face every time I walk past a bookshop as a reminder not to venture inside and spend every penny I have.

This fascination started at a very young age. I remember leafing through a gigantic encyclopedia (not that one) of the 20th century that my parents had on their shelves. I would pull other books down, peer across their pages and pour over the words and the images in rapt attention.

Fast forward a couple of decades or so and I’m a copywriter with my own shelves, one of which bristles with titles that either scream directly at the writer or at least shuffles them in the right direction.

So, with making lists another passion of mine, here’s my top 5 titles, with marks out of 10 to really stoke the fires of controversy. Ish. Anyway, maybe you recognise a few of them or have some hallowed tomes you’d like to chuck in to the mix.

Let's not be shy. I’ll show you mine first and later, you can show me yours.

Read Me: 10 Lessons for Writing Great Copy

This is as close to a copywriting manual that I can get to – and thank the Lord for that, because a “How to…” guide is wide of the mark (in my opinion). This is different. Jump inside and you immediately start learning. Packed with great writing samples, do's, don’ts and don’t-even-think-about-its, the book is beautifully put together as well. Bravo all round, 8/10.

Writing That Works

None other than David Ogilvy tells you, me and everyone else who’ll listen to read this short collection of tutorials from Roman and Raphaelson. And who am I to argue? Maybe a little dated – no guide to social media copywriting here, my friends – but some timeless business writing advice nonetheless. And guess what? Its short, sharp and snappy, and rewards a dip in and out approach to your reading. A solid 7/10.

D&AD Copy Book

One from the vaults (er, 1996), this D&AD collection offers 32 copywriters and their best writing. Long copy, short copy, something-in-between copy. What’s more, its not just great ads and great writing samples. The copywriters themselves – Luke Sullivan, Tony Brignull, Barbara Nokes et al – open a window on to their ways of working. Fascinating stuff, 8/10.

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing

I’m not showing off here. I read this. And I thought it was great! Seriously. Don’t get me wrong, where a few words suffice, you can trust Steven Pinker to use more than necessary. But this was a fun and informative read, a push and a nudge for you (me) to take how we write well, and make it better. And I’m not a grammar fiend by any stretch, but my eyebrows arched at some of the nuggets in here. Well worth sticking with I’d say, 7/10.

Ogilvy On Advertising

Confession time: I’ve not read it. Well, I’ve glanced through bits. But I had to include it here. I mean, the writing fraternity will shun me if I don't. The horror! Anyway, I’m told “it’s amazing. Read it.” I promise I will, so here’s a hopeful 9/10 for this “classic”.

It would be great to hear what other books copywriters lean on - could be hundreds more, could be absolutely none. Either way, its an interesting conversation. Let us know with via Twitter, @DMA_UK, using the hashtag #dmawriting.

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