When it comes to copywriting and writing content in general, the only way to be is natural.
That sentence sounds strange because surely writing is natural.
You would think so, but something bizarre happens to people when they prepare to write their web copy, blogs, brochure content, emails etc. They lose the ability to be themselves.
Just because writing is something you do every day, and have done since your early years at school, doesn’t mean you are a natural writer.
For most people, when they pick up a pen or sit in front of their computer, they are taken over Althea, the literary marketer.
She overwhelms their personality to the point they are driven to write incomprehensible, grandiose, buzzword-laden garbage.
Even worse, when they read it back to themselves, Althea makes sure all they hear is literary music to their ears. The problem is everyone else sees marketing-crap-filed-gobbledygook.
So how do you keep Althea at bay?
Forget about marketing
Writing naturally means forgetting all the rules stipulated at school. Your grammar needs to be right (obviously), but feel free to bend the rules slightly.
If you want to end your sentence with a preposition – go for it.
The knack with natural writing is creating something that when read, sounds almost conversational in style (but without the ums, errs, and slang).
When you read it out loud, if you find yourself stumbling or worse, nodding your head in approval of a particularly business-marketing-pretentious sounding section, you’ve got it wrong.
As you read, your writing should flow with ease.
Your sentences should be short, so your reader doesn’t run out of breath before they reach the full stop.
Your paragraphs should be brief and straightforward.
And your vocabulary should be easy to follow.
In fact, there should be no room for Althea in your head because the only person who should be there is your reader.
Addressing your reader
Through your writing, you are talking directly to him or her. He or She is the one you want to buy from you.
And before you get on your high horse and tell me that your reader is highly educated and will, therefore, expect writing of a particular standard (yes, I’m talking to all your finance/insurance bods), you’re wrong.
Every reader, no matter how educated, wants to read something that’s clear and concise.
They don’t want to have to think about what’s in front of them, ponder the true meaning of your sentences, or feel the need to reach for the Thesaurus.
So next time you see Althea’s influence creeping into your writing, stop, banish her from your mind and start again.
Sally Ormond is a professional copywriter who kicked Althea into touch a long time ago.