The Ultimate Copywriting/Copyediting Playlist

Listening to a playlist

In 2001, researchers studied how background music affected the quality of people’s writing. The findings showed that “background music significantly disrupted writing fluency” — a fairly cut-and-dry case for writing in silence.

Unless you’re one of those people who finds silence louder than noise. Or you’re the kind of person who feeds off secondary sensory stimulation (creativity in one area is heightened by exposure to creativity in another). In fact, many non-professionals forced into copywriting or copyediting find secondary sensory stimulation to be helpful in tackling the task at hand and feeling good about the results.

“I tend to write and edit faster and better when I’m listening to music,” says Kelly Fischstein, a photographer in Toronto. “Responding to clients. Putting quotes together. Looking over my kid’s homework. It’s all easier with tunes.”

Our informal poll shook out around 50/50. And interestingly, among the “yay for noise” group, almost all genres were represented, including death metal (yes, death metal).

Our playlist doesn’t rock that hard. In fact, our playlist doesn’t “rock hard” at all. As copywriters and copyeditors, the sound can’t define the environment because that’s what the work does. Instead, it has to be part of the environment. Hard rock’s tempo, riffs, chords and lyrics define an environment. Great for after work. Not so good during (this assertion is supported by a 2013 study similar to the one mentioned above).

Be better at copywriting and copyediting with this playlist

It’s mellifluous but inspiring. It keeps you awake without distracting you. The lyrics are powerful enough to spark thoughts, but repetitive enough to fade into the background. And while there’s definite variety, the Beats Per Minute (BPMs) are fairly consistent throughout so you’re never jarred out of rhythm.

Ok, enough. On to the music.

Track #1: Mad About You — Hooverphonic

Violins, a subtle drum beat and the angelic voice of Geike Arnaert is a great way to start the job. Not too hard, not too soft and light on bass. You’re not quite feeling the work in your soul yet. No sense wasting heart-pounding beats before you’re ready.

Track #2: Kiss Me — Sixpence None The Richer

Ok, you’re getting into the groove a bit. Positivity is key. And this boppy poppy track is perfect for that, especially with Leigh Nash’s fun Nashville-style vocals. Little known fact about the band: they’re primarily a Christian Rock group.

Track #3: Perpetual Dawn — The Orb

You’re probably zoned in now, to the point where a bomb could go off beside you and you wouldn’t notice. So you want a repetitive track that won’t distract you with its lyrics or its music, but that’ll maintain the mood. This is it. With a bit of ragga, with elements of trip-hop, you’ll zone out by zoning in. And when you’re done your work, check out more from The Orb — they’re a ’90’s must.

Track #4: Hello — Ice Cube

Warning: this is definitely an NSFW track, but by this time, you’ve probably taken a chunk out of the first part of your job and you’re looking for some verbal inspiration to kick up your efforts. This track has it in spades.

Track #5: Sunshine Superman — Donovan

Ideas are floating around your mind and on the page, and you want to concentrate on them. This track won’t stand in your way. It’s simple but interesting. The lyrics are basic. And the beat is repetitive enough to not throw you off kilter. Of note: this is an example of a track that has no traditional chorus.

Track #6: What Is Life — George Harrison

You’ve no doubt heard this song before, and so you’re less inclined to be distracted by it or want to listen intently. But it’s arranged to be motivating. We find it gets our fingers moving and our minds racing. Actually, most of George Harrison’s Beatles and post-Beatles work does that for us.

Track #7: Somebody That I Used To Know — Gotye

Unless you were living under a rock five or six years ago, you know this song. And that’s a good thing because you can probably recite the words without thinking. This is a good thing. And the lyrics oscillate  between alto and soprano to keep your ears on their toes.

Track #8: Pump Up The Volume — M/A/R/R/S

You’re feeling it big time now. And you’ll feel it more with this in the background. What’s cool about this track is how the beat never changes, but the arrangement changes every 20 seconds or so. So while the cognitive part of your brain will notice, the functional part of your brain is unaffected. It’s a 6:29 song, and you’ll be amazed how much you get done in such a short time.

Track #9: Reflektor — Arcade Fire

Hello CanCon! This is a straight-up pump-you-up track to bring home phase two of your job. You’ll find yourself bopping along. And being as zoned in as you are, you probably won’t notice the David Bowie cameo at 4:42. But how cool that Bowie agreed to back up the track.

Track #10: The Goonies “R” Good Enough — Cyndi Lauper

We’re back to boppy poppy to get you back to pounding away at those keys. And you get to think about one of the greatest ’80s movies for a ten-second break.

Track #11: Next To Me — Emeli Sande

A bit more intense than the previous track, but still repetitive enough to not throw you off your train of thought. Also, the lyrics are uplifting, motivating and make you believe you can do anything. Which you can!

Track #12: Hopeless Wanderer — Mumford and Sons

We saved the best for last. This is your big finish, and perfect for looking over what you’ve done. You’re feeling great about your work. And about yourself. As you should.

So there you have it: our copywriting and copyediting playlist. You probably have your own. And we’d love to give it a whirl. If you have a playlist, share it with us on Facebook or LinkedIn. And happy working.

P.S.: Here are links to all the songs on our copywriting and copyediting playlist:

Judging the Fit of a Copy Editor


Choosing the right copy editor

Smart businesses seek out the services of a copy editor because everyone in a company can use a second set of eyes.

Yes, you want to avoid embarrassing mistakes, but that’s more the job of a proofreader (we do that too, by the way). A copy editor will make sure you’re conveying what you think you’re conveying, and that you’re doing it in the best way possible.

The relationship between a creator and a copy editor is an interesting one. As the creator (that is, the writer of the piece in question, be it a report, a pitch, a website, an email or a tweet), you should expect the copy editor to:

  • understand you, how you speak and (more importantly) how you don’t.
  • understand your subject matter and your message.
  • understand your audience and the kind of language that would resonate with them.

But also important is the copy editor’s understanding of how you like to work.

We talked about the objective basics of feedback in a previous post, but we didn’t touch on the subjective aspect of it, which we deem as the fit.

When you’re looking for a copy editor that fits your organization, it’s important to consider their feedback style, their adherence to the rules and if you genuinely like working with them.

Let’s look at all three in more depth.

A copy editor’s tone

As we built our team of copy editors, we paid close attention to tone. And tone, according to this excellent piece from Psychology today, can convey more than the content itself.

For example, one of our editors has zero flower to her comments. When you read her notes (if she bothers to add notes at all), they’re almost robotic. And the clients she works with appreciate this lack of candour. They’re not interested in learning how to improve or in even considering the extra effort required. They want their copy fixed. No more, no less.

Another editor we have is exactly the opposite. You smile when you read her notes. You feel like you’re being helped versus being corrected. And you come away learning something new about being a better communicator every time.

Neither approach is right or wrong. And neither implies that the copy editor doesn’t care. Both our “robotic” and our “conversational” copy editors are militant about effective communication — they simply have different ways of expressing it.

A copy editor’s adherence to convention

We have an internal style that we’ve built over 10 years and continue to build. Some of our copy editors follow it like the bible. In their eyes, there’s never a reason to break the conventions. This isn’t to say that the client has to accept all the changes and recommendations, but our “stickler” editors don’t feel they’d be doing their jobs properly if they didn’t call out these broken rules. The clients they work with appreciate this exhaustiveness because they see quality writing as writing following the rules.

Other clients prefer a copy editor who knows the rules and has it in them to break said rules in the interests of impact. To these editors, words like “ain’t” are fine as long as the context and the type of client they’re working with warrants such words.

A copy editor’s personality

This is probably the most critical aspect. Because the more content you produce, the more interaction you’ll have with them.

We encourage you to take the time to find a good fit for you and your company. And, of course, we encourage you to consider us. We’re obviously great copy editors, and we’re good people too.