Why Hand Copying Old Ads is a Waste of Time

Why Hand Copying Old Ads is a Waste of Time

There’s this one piece of copywriting advice that’s been floating around since before payphone’s became extinct.

And it’s this…

Take excellent copywriting from the greats and copy it, longhand.

Saw an Ogilvy ad you thought was bananas good? Pull out the old legal pad and start writing it down, word by word.

The reasoning is that it’ll create muscle memory, you’ll learn by osmosis and somehow (if the stars are aligned, just so) you’ll become a better copywriter.

I’ve never liked that advice because it feels like something you suggest when you want to get someone out of your hair because their bugging you.

Plus, there’s no 👏🏻 proof 👏🏻hand copying does anything for your bottom line (and whether you write for yourself or for clients, it’s all about the bottom line).

But you know what does?

Studying how the greats write. Studying why one headline performs better than another. Studying the subtle ways they use persuasion.

And not just studying, but internalizing what you’ve learned and *applying* it to your writing. Especially, applying…

Because THAT’S a helluva lot better than muscle memory. It’s legit knowledge, insight and experience that you weave into your own words and ideas. 

Not to mention, writing isn’t about blind mechanics. Good writing (the kind you wanna hang on your wall like old Duran Duran posters) is about nuance. And nuance requires strategy, knowledge + action. 

Unless you’re in the business of improving penmanship or handwriting transcriptions, learning how to *actually* write copy is much faster than copying copy.

One is a time wasting noun. The other, a money making verb.

Do I have this all wrong? I don’t see how. Let me know though. Buuuut…before you start typing your rebuttal, I insist I insist you whip out a legal pad and hand write this post first. LOL!

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