We were all taught in school that nonfiction should be written formally. Don’t use contractions, metaphors, or similes, and don’t acknowledge the reader in any way.
And you know what?
For academic writing, that’s just fine.
But you’re in the real world now.
Nobody is going to give a shit about what you have to say if you address them like your high school English teacher.
The more formally you write, the faster you lose your reader.
There really aren’t any exceptions to this rule.
Why you need to write how you speak
The more copy I write, the more I notice the failings of other copywriters. I also notice their successes.
One of my favourite sites that demonstrates the importance of writing how you speak is Copy Hackers. The folks at Copy Hackers don’t hold back. They can be a little tongue-in-cheek sometimes, but their writing style works. They tripled conversions for Wistia just by making their copy less stilted and more informal. Why? Because the copy that they wrote created a connection.
In fiction, meanwhile, some of the most successful books of all time are written how we speak. Look at The Catcher in the Rye or Gone Girl. We feel like the narrator is talking to us. There’s nobody but us and them. And that’s how great writing should always make you feel, whether it’s fiction, poetry, or nonfiction. It’s a key ingredient that many copywriters fail to even consider. They’re far too busy shoving the features of their shiny new product into their audience’s face to even consider that that person wants to feel loved.
How to get your writing to reflect speech
Not sure where to begin?
Here’s a few tips:
Learn from the best
Whatever you write, take some time to read some of the content over on Copy Hackers. Sign up to their mailing list too, and read their emails.
Analyse some books that are written in first person, particularly young adult or new adult books. Young adult and new adult books need to get to the point and fast, or they’ll lose their readers. It’s the perfect style to read to hone your own style.
Read your writing aloud
When you’ve finished writing, go somewhere quiet and read your piece aloud.When you've finished writing, go somewhere quiet and read your piece aloud. Click To Tweet
Does it sound like something you’d say, or does it sound obnoxious?
If it sounds obnoxious, rephrase it.
Give dictation a go
Dictation can be an effective way to find your voice because you’re just talking into your computer, phone, or dictaphone. You don’t have to think, and there’s no backspace key if you don’t like something.
If you’re prone to self-editing, this is a particularly exhilarating exercise and will teach you a lot about how you use language.
Over to You
Do you write how you speak? Why/why not? Do you think this particular style is on the rise among copywriting? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!