Copyright © 2005 by Bruce Carlson
One of least talked-about areas in copywriting education is voice. This is probably because it’s tough to set general rules for something that’s so personal to each of us. After all, same things go into building your copywriting voice that go into making you who you are!
Personality, upbringing, environment, education, audience, purpose…all these and more go into forming your voice, no matter what kind of writing you’re doing.
In this article, I’d like to try to tackle subject of voice in copywriting. I’ve identified a couple of areas that I believe are most important when it comes to making your voice more credible when writing copy -- style and tone. By improving these two areas, you'll connect with your customer in a much more genuine way.
In my conversations with successful copywriters and marketers, I find that practically every one of them has an uncanny ability to communicate on a gut level with their customer or prospect. And that is one of main keys to their success.
How do they do this?
By removing internal editors, and writing as if they were speaking to a friend.
When you sit down to write, you need to make a psychological leap and forget everything you ever learned about writing in school.
Yes, I know that you’ve got those “ghosts of English teachers past” sitting on your shoulder and whispering in your ear about how you should write. But those internal editors need to be tossed out.
Instead, you need to write like you talk. This is much easier said than done, and requires some practice and work. If you have a hard time doing this, one possibility is to record yourself speaking your sales message first, and then to transcribe it afterwards. That way you’ll get spoken spirit of language.
You’ll still need to edit it though, to get rid of “hesitation markers” like ummmm, uhhhhh, etc. You don’t want those sounds in your copy…
But more than anything, writing like you talk means being informal. One thing I see with novice copywriters is that, even though they might start to get idea of writing like they talk, they’ll still “speak” formally, as if they were giving a (dull) public speech.
It’s true that ad copy from 50 years ago, especially direct mail sales letters, may have been a bit stiff and formal. And there may still be times when a certain level of formality is needed, depending upon your target market. But with Web sales copy, and especially with email copy, informal is right way to go.
Informal style means breaking a ton of grammar rules. Which is what you do when you talk, anyway, at least in conversational speech. Use contractions (like can’t and won’t and I’ll…). And fragment sentences. And you can start sentences with “and”. Or with “or”.
And you can tail off sentences with ellipsis markers (those three dots)… Which is also a good way to show hesitation when writing, by way, since you can’t use hesitation sounds you normally use in speech.
And you can have sentences that have only one or two words. Like this!
And you can use really short paragraphs to express a quick thought. Or a bit longer paragraphs to express a longer thought.