If you’re a doctor it’s ‘What do you practice in?’, ‘How long have you been a doctor?’ and ‘What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen?’
If you’re a teacher it’s ‘Why?’
As a copywriter speaking to new people, I’ve also noticed the same set of questions tend to crop up. Here are the five most popular responses:
I bet you’re dead good at spelling.
Well no, actually. I mean, I’m decent, but I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant.
We seem to get hung up on spelling more than any other facet of language, like it’s some kind of unbreakable code that very few are able to fathom, but we shouldn’t get so stressed about it.
Why? Because we have dictionaries. We have Google. We have the inclination to check – that’s all that separates copywriters from the rest. We have this perception that we must be ace spellers when in fact we’re just really, really good at checking.
You’re the grammar police! I bet you hate a misplaced apostrophe.
I work in a world where every letter is under the microscope, yes – but I like to have a day off!
I’m not in the business of correcting people if they don’t want to be corrected. I’d say my attitude to language is quite liberal. The world is full of brands who spell their names incorrectly or unconventionally.
Naturally, it’s all about context (so using slang on your CV isn’t very clever) but I like to see grammar as guidelines rather than a set of rules.
But it doesn’t hurt to know the rules. That way you’ll know when you’re breaking them – and what meaning you’re creating by breaking them.
What’s your favourite book?
I guess it’s the music industry’s equivalent of ‘What are your musical influences?’ It’s always up there, based on the presumption that, as a writer, I must read.
I do, but it’s not what I’d call conventional reading.
The majority of my collection is made up of reference books and bits on linguistics, although I read most of The Etymologicon, by Mark Forsyth, with my mouth wide open.
No, I don’t read much fiction; no, I’m not familiar with most of Shakespeare’s work; and yes, come to me if you’d ever like to know more about syntactic tree diagrams to get your party going.
What’s the best thing you’ve written?
I guess that’s for others to answer!
I’ve written so much I’ve lost track. There are many pieces of work I’m proud of – in and outside of work – and many include headlines that put the ‘pun’ in ‘punchy’.
But the piece of work that’s given me the most satisfaction – so far – is naming a restaurant. I haven’t actually eaten there yet. Must do something about that.
What’s your favourite word?
Ah, the classic! This is quite possibly the commonest question I’m asked. I love the idea that people really think I boil language down into such a simplistic segment.
And I do.
I’m a big fan of ‘rapscallion’, ‘poppycock’ and ‘shenanigans’ and their mischievous connotations. But I also like unusual short words like ‘jib’ and particularly ‘eke’.
However, I’ve yet to find a better word than apricity. It’s beautiful.
Have I missed any other frequently asked questions? What questions are you asked most often in your profession? I’m always looking for guest bloggers, so please get in touch if you have something to share!