Suspend disbelief for a moment, and read this (if you can get through it):
‘Founded in 1987, we are the leading providers of services in our industry and complete all work to the highest standard as we ensure that our clients and their clients alike are highly satisfied and impressed with our services above and beyond their expectations. Our company core qualities of integrity, community-mindedness and fiscal responsibility ensure that we are best placed to provide a service that is on time and with the minimum of disruption to your business activities. "You can't beat authentic genuine expertise.”'
Okay, I just made that paragraph up out of my head. Ish. It is potentially based on actual copy that I've had the misfortune to interact with. I refuse to name names.
Unfortunately, 90% of business copy reads like this. To be blunt: it sucks.
Copy can suck for all kinds of reasons. Often it's long-winded or unclear. Typically there are errors of grammar, spelling and sentence structure. Maybe it doesn't really state what the business does, or pitch any benefits to the reader.
But, most of the time, copy sucks for one main reason: it just doesn't sound like a person wrote it.
It's crucial that your copy sounds like a person, for a few reasons:
- you are a person
- your potential customer/client is a person, who understands person-language
- people buy from people, so it's important that you sound like one.
I don't care what industry you work in. Sure, maybe you're pitching in a high-paced corporate environment where people slam down buzzwords for breakfast. Maybe you work in academic circles and it's imperative that your writing critiques, synthesises and even pontificates. I'm not against using industry jargon or language that's appropriate to your audience.
But no matter what special words you use, it's possible to sound like a person.
Here's how to create copy that pitches your business perfectly, in language other humans can understand:
Dumb it Down
Sometimes when people ask me about We Write You, I hear myself saying something like "we design authentic brands and write engaging copy that reflects the elements of the client's brand story in a way that will capture their ideal customers". UMSNORE. Don't feel bad if you fell asleep in the middle of that sentence - I almost did, and I'm the one typing it.
The conversation goes much better when I say something like, "we help people figure out the story behind their business, and write their website in a way that actually sounds like them".
Imagine you're explaining your business or product to somebody who has no knowledge of your industry. Use normal English, not buzzwords. So instead of being a "wellness coach with a sustainable whole-of-life approach" just say, "I help people eat better and exercise without losing their minds." Instead of telling people "I work with startups to curate their visual brand across image-based social media platforms", just say "I help new businesses do instagram and snapchat."
This doesn't have to be the final draft of your copy. It's fine to use a certain tone of language or specialised words if you're trying to attract customers who understand that language, and like it. But explaining your business in simple English is a great starting point - you can fancy it up from there.
Use Clear Pronouns
When you're writing something for your business, be clear on who you are and who you're writing to. This applies to everything from an email to a full raft of website copy.
Take this blog post. I'm using first-person pronouns("I") because it's ME writing it - I, Kamina, am speaking to you.
Notice how I use the second-person pronoun ("you") consistently too. I don't switch between talking to "you" and then making vague references to my "reader". I don't switch to talking about you like you're not here. It's you and me, baby! We all know who's who in this conversation.
If you're writing about your business and it's just YOU in your business, please don't refer to yourself as "we"! It's vague, impersonal and makes it harder for your potential clients to connect. They want to know who they're going to get when they send an email or pick up the phone.
You might think it makes you sound bigger or more professional to kind of pretend that you're not just a one-person operation. Don't kid yourself - everybody is seeing through that, and it just makes your business copy sound pretentious. If you're a one-person operation, own it.
If you're a multi-person operation, try to make it clear if a message is coming from just one member of the team. Make sure copy is written in an individual voice, and that readers can put a face to the writer. Of course, if you're speaking a message that comes from the whole team ("there's two of us, and we write copy"), it's fine to use "we".
[Want FREE, no-obligation personal feedback on your website copy? Enter your email address here and we'll send you some tips that are tailored to you!]
Listen to Yourself Talk
If you're trying to figure out how to put your message into words that sound like a person, literally get your phone out and record yourself saying it out loud. This isn't the final edition of your copy, and you don't have to play it to anyone else. Find a quiet place, and just go for it - "um"s and all.
Have a go explaining what you do, out loud, as though you're telling a friend. Then play it back and type it out. Read it, and notice how you talk. Do you tend to use more statements, or more questions? Do you speak in complete sentences or cut yourself off? Do you repeat particular expressions or words a lot?
Obviously, you don't want your written content to be full of incomplete sentences and the word "um". But if you can become more self-aware about how you actually talk in real life, you can start to incorporate some of your personal quirks and speech patterns into your copy.
Say it Out Loud
Once you've incorporated all the above and actually drafted some content, try reading it out loud.
If it's easy to read out loud, natural to say, and feels like 'you' - you've probably nailed it.
If you find yourself stumbling over tricky words or sticky sentence structure, or if you sound like somebody else - you should probably take another run at it.
Great copy will flow. Great copy will be easy to read. Great copy will make your reader forget they're reading a business website, because they're absorbed in your story and your ideas. Great copy will make your reader feel like they're having a conversation with you.
Not sure if you're writing like a person or not? Get us to give you some free feedback on your website. We'll tell you what we really think, and give you some ideas to fix it. No strings attached.
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