Daryl Lang, Shutterstock Senior Copywriter

Daryl Lang

Daryl Lang

I’ve been less than complimentary about the state of the copywriting blogosphere, so when I found Daryl Lang — who writes the independent and thoughtful Breaking Copy blog — you could say I recognized his thinking:

Yet while all this is happening, the conversation about copywriting has been hijacked by people pitching products and services of dubious value. Do a search for “copywriting blog” and most of what you’ll find are businesses selling technology products, like online courses, search engine optimization and quick-fix marketing schemes.

Lang is a senior copywriter for Shutterstock, and in the interest of wanting to get things done, he’s indulging in a social-media free summer. Welcome to this issue of Working Writers.

Tell Us Who You Are and What You Do (briefly)

I’m Daryl Lang and I edit a blog about copywriting called Breaking Copy. At my day job I’m the senior copywriter on the in-house creative team at Shutterstock, a stock image and video site. I started out as a newspaper reporter, worked as an editor at a trade magazine for photographers, and also edited catalogs and product packaging for a home products company.

What Hardware & Software Do You Use?

At work, they have me on a Macbook Air with a big Apple display. It’s a good setup because we often have working meetings in conference rooms, where it’s helpful to have a laptop in front of you. At home, I use a Mac Mini hooked up to an old Sony monitor and a big HDTV on the wall. I’m not picky about computers, but I’m a bit of a snob about my keyboard at home — it’s a Unicomp Spacesaver M. So nice to type on.

I use fairly standard software. Microsoft Word or Apple Pages for writing, BBEdit or TextWrangler for code, Adobe Creative Suite for graphics. I use WordPress for my blog and I use Google Docs when I need to collaborate on a document.

Probably my oddest habit with computers is keeping a log of all the work I do in one, giant plain-text file. I start a new file every January. It comes in handy to have a list of everything I’ve done and when I did it.

Any Special Copywriting or Workflow Tricks To Share?

Strictly speaking my job is to write, but doing it well requires a lot of additional skills. The hardest part is getting everyone working on a project aligned in support of the best possible copy. I need to convey the idea that, “We’re serving our customers better if we say it this way.”

It helps me sell a copy concept if I can show it in layout. For example, if I need to show how a new promo line will work on one of our websites, I’ll mock it up in HTML and show it in a meeting using a web browser, so my colleagues can read it in context.

If we’re working on a display ad, I’ll use Illustrator to comp up a quick design so everyone can see how all the elements work together.

I can imagine an idealized scenario where I’d just write words and leave the design and code to the people who are best at it. But then there’s reality, where everybody has to get creative to make sure our ideas get realized and we’re shipping quality work on schedule.

Another important trick is knowing when to send an email, versus when to make a phone call or pay a visit in person. Use email for delivering complete work and for easy conversations with no potential for negative judgment. Make voice contact as soon as you sense something might be going awry. You can often avoid many hours of frustration by speaking to someone with your own voice, as a human being, rather than typing at them. This is true whatever kind of work you do, but it’s especially true with writing, since it can feel subjective and personal.

What Pieces of the Puzzle Are You Missing?

I want more hours in the day. There are many perks to working in-house like I do. You get to know everything about a brand, build relationships with other creative people, and enjoy the security of a steady job. But I wish I had more time and energy to explore side projects or freelance more.

Just The Facts

Name: Daryl Lang
Company: Copywriter, Shutterstock
Breaking Copy blog