205-223-4415 shawn@shawnwright.net

Writing does not come naturally to me. But I was reading the blog post “10 Reasons Why All Designers Should Start Writing More” by Alana Brajdic, and it reminded me of my own journey as a reluctant writer.

I knew I always wanted to be a designer. Having a father who was a designer helped me decide early. I also knew what I was getting into. When I was a junior in high school, I received the Auburn University class catalog. I saw that I only needed three quarters (now semesters) of English and no math. Sold! I was all in on design.

When I graduated college and was looking for my first job, I interviewed with an industrial business. A friend’s father ran the business and was looking for a designer, marketer, writer, the whole package. Today, this would be a great job. Back then it was terrifying. Writing? I was going to have to write? I backed out before they could offer me a job but I asked if I could send a friend to them. He got the job, and I believe may still be with the company that bought them out.

I never regretted that decision. It was not the time for me to write.

Once I entered the advertising world, I found out how much power writing gave those who could do it. The path from entry level creative to creative director at ad agencies seemed to go to copywriters more than art directors. That is understandable, art directors work with visuals and if we can’t explain what we did, then surely you can see it, right? Copywriters had the upper hand, they described things day in and day out. I guess you could say they had a way with words.

When I became my own boss, learning to write became a necessity. Whether I was writing an ad, crafting a proposal or writing a blog post, I needed to become comfortable. It took awhile, but once I found my own voice, writing became easier, but it’s still not natural. When I design, I can lose myself for hours working on a project, and it comes easy for me. When I am writing, I have to make myself do it. I push everything else aside, and I make sure that I won’t be distracted. It’s a job. Sometimes the words pour out; sometimes the blank screen mocks me.

Becoming a writer will help you be a better designer. It will help you “sell” your design work to clients and your team. It will help you become more of a partner with the copywriter you are working with, and it will help you become a creative director if that is your goal.

As a reluctant writer, it’s easy to stand on the sidelines while the real writers battle it out over how something is worded and be able to give your opinions about what really matters. It can be comical at times. The Onion posted a great story about Copy Editors battling over copy style.

Based on the Onion article, here is the last bit of advice for designers or anyone who wants to write more. The two most important “issues” out there are the Oxford Comma and Two Spaces after the Period. I write this tongue in cheek because they seem to be overly important for some people* but I will address it here.

Oxford Comma. Most every company I have worked for used the AP Stylebook which leaves out the Oxford Comma unless deemed absolutely necessary. If your company uses The Chicago Manual of Style or The University of Oxford Style Guide, then use the Oxford Comma. If you have a boss who is fanatical about it one way or another, then follow their style. Life’s too short to argue about this. I grew up not using it, so I don’t use an Oxford Comma. If you don’t know what an Oxford Comma is, it’s an extra comma before and. An example would be red, white, and blue.

Two Spaces Between Sentences. This subject is one I am passionate about. Some writers want to add two spaces between sentences instead of one. If you learned on a typewriter, you always added two spaces. The reason was that all typewriters use what is called a monospaced font. It is also called a fixed-pitch, fixed-width, or non-proportional font. What makes them unique is that each letter and character each occupy the same amount of horizontal space. An ‘I’ would have the same space as a ‘W.’ For that reason, a double space is needed to give some air between sentences. With the advent of digital fonts, typographers have already designed spacing between unique characters and the space after periods. No extra space is needed. I don’t get worked up about this because if a copywriter sends me text with two spaces I search and replace two spaces with one and move on. I am the designer after all.

I hope this encourages you to start writing. It’s like anything else, you need to put the time in to get better at it so just start writing.

*These people are my writer friends on Facebook.