A copy deck is a Word document with the copy for a piece. Copy will usually stay in deck form until it’s approved by all stakeholders, then copied and past-ed into the design.

Interestingly, the term “deck” dates to the mid 20th century when presentation slides were stacked next to a projector like a deck of cards. Eventually, the in-dividual pieces that made up the final design were called decks as well (copy decks, strategy decks, pitch decks, etc.).

But a copy deck is unique among the rest of the decks in that it doesn’t need to be formatted or designed. Instead, the copy from a copy deck will be copied and pasted into a layout of the final piece.

But this doesn’t stop some people from creating copy decks with unnecessarily complicated formatting.

We don’t do that at Re:word. Instead, we go in the opposite direction. Our copy decks have minimal formatting — actually, it has only one unique formatting difference, which will be discussed below.

We keep copy decks simple for a few reasons.

A copy deck should promote free thinking

Think of an artist’s blank canvas, full of possibility. What if that canvas had barriers the artist had to get above, below or around? Don’t you think their brain power would be better spent bringing the Mona Lisa to life than negotiate the obstacles?

The same is true for copywriters and their decks. The more boxes, formats and labels to negotiate, the more time is being spent not writing. And if you think, “whatever, it only a takes a second,” how long does it you take to get into the flow of something if you have to stop to adjust every second?

This goes for using different fonts for different elements of the copy deck as well, because then the writer is spending their time making sure everything is aligned, and not writing.

A copy deck should allow for individuality

When you’re writing copy, you’ll either be writing to a designed template or writing with an idea in your head of what you want the final copy to look like. An overly formatted deck makes that impossible.

For this reason, we encourage our writers to set their decks up their way, as long as it’s all in the same font and the reader can understand what’s going on.

Generally, we encourage our writers to call out elements of a page using different sizes and text formats (bold, italics and underlines) because those are easy commands that won’t ruin the flow.

If you were to see the below on a copy deck, as a reader or a designer, you would know what the message hierarchy is and what do to with each element.

The words you need for the yes you want
Sales. Shares. Investment. Applause. Approvals. A second date.
Make it happen with tight copy in English or French.
Learn about our process<

However, another writer could set it up this way:

The words you need for the yes you want
Sales. Shares. Investment. Applause. Approvals. A second date.
Make it happen with tight copy in English or French.
Learn about our process

If the reader knew the colour code, they’d understand just as easily what was going on and how to evaluate or design.

Ultimately, whatever copy deck style you choose should be easy to write with, easy to understand and, most importantly, easy to remain a constant.

A copy deck should help sell the copy

The words in a copy deck will do most of the heavy lifting, but the copy deck itself can be of assistance and this is the one formatting choice we make: our right margin is set a third of the way to the left.

We do this because our devices have changed the way we read in that we’re used to scrolling down rather than across. Our eyes get lazy scrolling horizontally and we forget what we read, so minimizing that action leaves our reader more brain power for comprehension.

Another benefit of this little formatting change is to keep all the copy in a copy deck within a reader’s peripheral vision, giving some of your more well-chosen words more face time with your reader. Even if they’re not reading the word, it’s still there earning influence in the reader’s mind (good for key words like “now” and “free.”).

Also, editing an unformatted copy deck is easier and faster

Like you as the writer of the deck, your editor will want to get into a flow. And like you, it’s a challenge when they’re ducking and dodging a difficult format. Also, comments and changes will aways be easier to see on a barely formatted copy deck.

Having said that, if you have more than one language in a piece, you need an easy format for a translator to complete and a design team to follow. While most of our clients prefer a left-right grid, it’s one more element that can go wonky (and often does). If you have the freedom to set your own conventions, we’d recommend an above/below format:

The words you need for the yes you want
Les mots dont tu as besoin pour le oui que tu veux

And finally, a hot copy deck tip

If you’re writing to a pre-existing design template, indicate the separate sections of the design in the copy deck with simple line like this:

…end of the last section


Beginning of the next section

It makes life so much easier for whoever is laying out the copy.