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  1. Anna Butler wrote on

    Guess I’ve also been doing it “wrong” all these years! It’s always made sense to me to present the information to the client as they will most likely see it once it is published.

    I’ll layout DL brochure text in DL-sized columns (with landscape orientation as necessary); I’ll layout DM letters in a proper letter format; if I’m working with a web designer and have access to the design concepts, I’ll often layout the copy as it will appear on the page with text/header boxes and taglines in place.

    When keywords and SEO are to be included in the copy, I provide a keyword report for each page as a separate item, and also provide meta-data in a document of it’s own. That way the client isn’t having to guess what will be appearing on the page, what is behind the scenes, and what is supplementary information/research.

    But each to their own.

  2. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Yes, I do something similar. Tags in a spreadsheet, keywords in a word cloud with a quick heading and intro.

  3. Charles Cuninghame wrote on

    I’m with you Glenn. I try to make draft copy look as much like the finished copy will be (as MS Word allows!).

    Though it doesn’t stop the designers messing it up!

  4. Kate Toon Copywriter (@katetooncopy) wrote on

    “To me, the term ‘copy deck’ means nothing more than a document containing your copy.”

    Yep that’s all it is. Frick knows where you dug up that sample.

    Everyone has different ways of doing things. Awesome ex gency copywriters like myself and and lesser copywriters like your good self. :-)

    Every writer has a different way of laying out their copy. As long as the client get’s it and it translates well into the design and information architecture it’s all good.

    Kate -Toffee nosed snob- Toon

  5. Vicky Claringbull wrote on

    Thanks for your post. I’m interested in a slightly different aspect that you mention briefly – review. How do you get your content reviewed and does it work for you and your clients? I understand that this can be a painful process for some. What’s your experience?

    My husband and I are currently working on a workflow tool to help smooth out the bumps and frustrations of this process and I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.

  6. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Kate, you’re too funny! :-) My son (8.5yrs) suggested, “maybe you should try a little harder not to make mistakes.” He doesn’t have agency experience either, though, so take that with a grain of salt. ;-)

    Vicky, yes, the review process is definitely challenging. I’ll blog about it soon. If you subscribe to my blog or follow me, you’ll know as soon as I post it. (Follow me on Twitter ( or add me on Google+ ( .)

  7. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Yeah, he’s a good boy. Has a bit of a way with words too. Who knows? He may end up working with me! :-)

  8. Matt wrote on

    Hi Glenn

    On the thing about reviewable wireframes… have you heard of UXPIN ( I’ve only had a quick peruse of the site & features, but it seems to support what you seem to want to do.



  9. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Hey Matt. That looks VERY interesting. Will take a closer look today. Thanks!

  10. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Yeah, that UXPIN looks very nice. Pretty expensive though, if you’re a one-man operation… :-(

  11. Tim Schoch wrote on

    As lovely as a text-formatted copy display is, it is not a deck. Your attempts to design copy for consumption may indeed lead clients to false expectations of what the design will look like, plus it is far inferior to what the final product will be (I hope).

    Any designer or art director would slap your wrist for attempting to persuade a client with text formatting. They know that clients will focus on the design and virtually ignore copy specifics. To get them to focus on messaging, the all-text deck is used.

    Things to consider:

    — What you are really trying to do with your layout approach is educate and persuade the client via your copy draft. I would suggest that that is all covered in your first meeting with them when the job is assigned. A copy platform, if not a creative brief, should precede any creative, and here is where you can set expectations and even some source copy and sample ads from others in their industry.

    — Will copy presentation be in person with the client? If so, keep the copy generic and talk the client through it, without putting inappropriate designs in their heads.

    — Will the designer comp your copy for client presentation? This depends on the client and if core messaging has been approved. This can be a time-saver or stretch a project beyond revision limits. If comped, the client will then focus on the design rather than the copy. They’d much rather deal in pretty pictures than have to concentrate on the economy, messaging, and CTA of copy. So copy changes will certainly come later.

    But, yeah, this is an age-old problem. Copy decks are excellent and efficient in-house or between collaborative professionals who know what they are looking at. Clients, however, need to follow the breadcrumbs with blinders on. It is up to you or the project lead to take firm control of what a client sees, when, and what you want the result to be.

    You might want to create (with your art colleague) ad templates or grids for each size of print and on-screen ad. Perhaps two versions of each. Then fill them in for client review. But even here, I would keep the text generic, all the same size.

    But, you know, set expectations early and read your client well. Each client is different, but there are certain human similarities most share. After all, most clients are human.

  12. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Hi Tim. Thanks for taking the time to comment with such thought. :-) I see where you’re coming from, but I can honestly say, I’ve presented hundreds of clients with my version of a copy deck – both in person and remotely – and not one has said they thought my layout was anything more than indicative. Nor did they focus on the design instead of the copy, or give any indication they were confused.

    I agree 100% that the copy deck must get the client to focus on the messaging. In fact, that’s the whole point of my ‘styled’ copy deck. The size and prominence of each copy element are a big part of the message. e.g. If the client sees a headline in a small font, they can’t fully appreciate its effectiveness. But we want the client to approve the copy before making a start on design. So it makes perfect sense to show them a larger headline.

    Of course, if the client is happy to invest in multiple copy-design iterations, that MAY be a better approach (although I suspect the design would always distract the client from the copy). But it’s a moot point because it’s not the real world. Not with my clients, anyway. And I’ve worked with some of the biggest.

    Oh, and my designer loves this process because it means far fewer copy changes post-design.

    1. Nate wrote on

      In my experience, the layout you’ve provided would actually create issues in a larger agency setting. In fact the copy deck you responded to would often never go solo in front of a client – it would be laid into a design or wireframe for presentation. The difference is that you, as the writer wouldn’t be the one creating it – that would be the UX Designer, Art Director or Designer. The benefit of a copy deck is often further down the line, when copy has to be submitted for legal, etc. That’s why it’s good to have a copy deck, maintained by the writer, that is a non-description point of reference for everything else that follows

      1. Glenn Murray wrote on

        Hi Nate. Thanks for joining in! :-) I see your point. Actually, I think we agree, when all’s said and done. An agency wouldn’t present a skeletal copy deck to a client, and I wouldn’t either. I suppose this post is written more for copywriters who are working directly with clients, and who might be tempted to use the agency-style copy deck…

  13. Max Kitchen wrote on

    I worked at agencies for many years and the old ‘copy deck’ was considered de rigeur when presenting copy back to a client. I have no idea why it was done like this, but I totally agree with you Glenn. Putting the copy in situ is so much better in my opinion. The art and copy needs to work together, so why wouldn’t you show it like that. Clients need that bit of hand holding – in any case, it says time further down the track, because you’ll avoid having to re-write the copy, just to fit the design.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Hey Max. Yeah, rewriting to fit the design. Now THERE’S a smart idea! ;-) Presenting the copy in a wireframe goes a long way to ensuring the cart doesn’t lead the horse.

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  15. James wrote on

    This is a bit old school, but back in the day direct marketing copywriters would develop copy in what was called a writer’s rough. This was before desktop publishing and design software, yes I have that much gray hair, and the copy would be developed and often presented within a rough layout on large pieces of paper.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Thanks James. Sounds like we’ve come full circle? Brilliant! I feel all Madison Avenue now! ;-)

  16. Tony Spencer wrote on

    For small direct clients, you can do what you like.

    But the moment that you involve others in the creative process, this formatting approach is simply not appropriate.

    The moment you work with an agency, design firm, or digital developer, this format is preempting the role of the designer/art director in the equation. And your format is literally abecedarian (e.g. are headlines always bigger and at the top of the page? No!)

    Direct clients are one thing — but if you’re working with other firms, it’s preferable to respect existing formats and templates.

    The essential idea is to keep things as neutral as possible. And if you wish to dramatize the idea, then the AD etc. can create a comp to preview your copy in the design.

    If you don’t know what a copy deck is, then it’s your responsibility to learn.

    BTW: I’ve freelanced for 20 yrs. for a multitude of clients, direct and otherwise. But that’s not why I’m right.

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  18. Camilla wrote on

    …Looks like I’ve been doing things majorly WRONG. Although, I never have had complaints.

    What do you do if the client has an existing template which is not doing any favours for them, and you want to throw your 2 cents in the ring? How do you tell them their design sucks in a respectful manner? Especially when they’ve just done a redesign?!

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Hi Camilla. Thanks for your comment. If the client’s design isn’t the best, I’ll generally tell them. If the client has just redesigned, it’s a bit trickier. If it’s an absolutely appalling design, I’ll generally say something. If it’s just very ordinary or a bit amateur, I’ll only pipe up if I feel they’re open to suggestions or constructive criticism.

      I normally just tell them the truth: That poor design will undermine their copy investment. Even the best copy won’t perform if people don’t read it (i.e. if people are too put off by the design).

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  20. Hsuan (Shen) wrote on

    I’m sorta like you, Glenn. Started out as a tech writer, and switched to copywriting for a tech company. I didn’t know what a copy deck was either, but apparently it has been something I’ve been doing for 10 years.

    The first designer I worked with asked me to indicate where formatting, titles, sub heads, etc., were w/out actually formatting the text. I thought it was a little weird, but he told me it was far easier for him to “see” the content w/out WYSIWYG “distractions.”

    Whenever I’m at a new client, I always ask how they want the want the copy delivered, and usually it’s been with tags of some sort.

    1. Glenn Murray wrote on

      Interesting, Hsuan. My designer definitely prefers to see the copy formatted, and LOVES getting the wireframes.

  21. HOrtiz wrote on

    Nice read and props on developing your own approach. The digital marketing agency where I’ve recently started working has developed their own internal template for copy decks. These adapt to the clients’ needs, but on the other hand it makes our clients have to adapt to us as well. I think it’s a good combination of just working out the ideas until there’s a sync between both sides. I’m loving that this kind of work is strengthening my creative fibers!

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  26. AgencyGuy wrote on

    Been working at large, global agencies in New York for the past 20 years. Copy decks nearly always look like the first one — very plain and just gets to the point. It intentionally has no layout, because that’s the job of other people, such as an art director or designer. The latter, suggested ones with the side rails or wireframes is not a copy deck. It’s a UX deck. It’s not professional to turn in a copy deck with ANY layout cues whatsoever. They’ll wonder why on earth a copywriter burned hours thinking about UX, when that’s literally someone else’s job. Unless you’re doing UX, a copy deck should only contain copy.

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