Don’t Be Afraid to Write as You Speak!

February 6, 2012

Don’t Be Afraid to Write as You Speak!

I often find it amusing when I read my emails.

It almost always starts off with “Dear Marc”, and then goes on with “Please find herewith…” or “Kindly be advised..”

I find that amusing because not only does it sound old-fashioned and boring, they are just not written in the language that people speak.

Do you feel the same way too?

In modern sales writing, it is important that your messages are the same as what you would say to your readers if you were speaking to them face-to-face. If you were talking to somebody in person, you wouldn’t use words like “Dear Sir” or “Please be advised” would you?

Let’s say you want to invite somebody out on a date. Can you imagine going up to that person and saying “Dear Michelle, I would kindly like to invite you to a seafood restaurant tonight. It is a very famous restaurant located in town. Please kindly RSVP. ”

You wouldn’t say it would you?

In fact, you are far more likely to say something like this, “Hey Michelle, there’s this new restaurant in town that’s famous for its amazing seafood! Why don’t we go try it out?”

See the difference in the emotions? One is written in the way that WE would speak, while the other is written in the way that our great-grandparents were taught to write in school.

In copywriting, it’s all about the results. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter if you write in perfect English or grammar as long as you achieve these 3 things:

  • Did you get your intended message across?
  • Was it interesting (and FUN) for other people to read?
  • Was it written in a conversational tone that you would normally say face-to-face with a friend?
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Copyediting Tips to Help You Produce Crisp, Error-free Copy

January 22, 2010

Copyediting is a critical part in every writing process because it lets you review over several drafts (I’d recommend 3) what you’ve written so you can make it tighter, more concise, more polished.

1ST DRAFT

Here’s a checklist to help you evaluate your first draft:

  1. Are there any obvious misspellings, inaccuracies in your information, punctuation or grammatical errors?
  2. Are there ambiguities and plot holes in your storyline?
  3. Does it fulfill your purpose and contain all the necessary information your readers need to know?
  4. Does your writing flow smoothly from one section to the next or does it feel jerky when read out loud?
  5. Does it speak to your readers in a language they will understand?
  6. Have you used sub-headings, bullet points, bold formatting and italics in all the right places?
  7. Does your content interest your readers?
  8. Is your content visually appealing and attractively laid out?
  9. Does it contain unnecessary words and useless repetition of text?
  10. MORE IMPORTANTLY, have you included a call to action?

2ND DRAFT

Review for tone of voice and add more life into your copy by using metaphors, similes, juxtaposition (a technique of comparing and contrasting ideas), famous quotes that resonate, words that paint vivid images in readers’ minds, or any form of expression that makes your storyline more involving.

3RD DRAFT

On your final draft, be sure to print out your document and proofread it for any typos (See my checklist for reviewing your first draft) you might have missed in your previous drafts.



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Pack More Punch Into Your Copy. Use Active Voice Instead of Passive Voice!

January 21, 2010

In the English language, voice is used to refer whether the subject of the sentence is doing something, or receiving the action. An active voice tells you that the subject is acting, doing something. In writing, it makes your copy more alive, more engaging and more personal.

Look at this sentence: “John drives a red Ferrari.”

This is the active voice. Here, the subject is the driver, John,who is doing something to the car and there’s some action. You can feel the impact that active voice infuses into the sentence, making it more lively and more active.

Now imagine how it’ll sound like in passive voice : “The red Ferrari was driven by John.”

Feel the difference?

Firstly, the impact is gone because the subject has been moved from doing the action to receiving the action, thus making the sentence sound unemotional and boring. Secondly, the sentence length increases by another 40% for no extra meaning.

So instead of saying, “The goods have been received by customer service” (passive), say “Customer service has received the goods” (active). Instead of saying, “I am looking forward to meet you”, say “I look forward to meet you” as it sounds more personal.

While passive voice can make your writing long-winded, dull and confusing, there are some occasions when it would be more appropriate.

Some examples:

  • When you want to give extra emphasis to something noteworthy – “Lawry’s Steakhouse has been rated as one of the world’s top restaurants.” Here, the focus is on Lawry’s Steakhouse.
  • When you want to downplay the severity of an issue where tact is concerned – “Apology letters have been issued to our clients regarding the product mix-up.” Here, the focus has been taken away from the mistake – the product mix-up.

In conclusion, I encourage you to use your judgment when you write and you will only get better with experience. If you feel that your sentence sounds nicer in passive voice, then use it. But just be sure to vary using the active voice and passive voice wherever appropriate.


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Creative Thinking Technique #4 – Reframe Your Perspective of a Product by Turning Negatives into Positives

January 19, 2010

The term “reframing” is a technique that originates from therapy and the work of renowned psychotherapist Virginia Satir.  More specifically, reframing is a technique that dramatically changes the meaning of something you’ve seen or believed in and thereby changing your perspectives.

One example of reframing is to turn something that appears to be negative into a positive and you can apply it even in your approach to creative thinking! Let’s take your product for example. As you study it from every possible angle, make a detailed list of its negative characteristics that skeptics might point out to you or things that your client would never want anyone to know.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Why might customers decide not to buy it?
  • What are its obvious disadvantages and flaws?
  • What negative reputation has it received in the past?
  • What could go wrong if it were used in a non-standard, particular way?
  • What criticisms would people out of your target group tell you?

From your findings, take each negative answer and ask yourself how could it be turned into a positive. If your product is overly expensive, what could be good about that? Could it be made from superior quality materials that last longer than your competitor’s? What advantage can your product offer if it’s designed in an unusual way? Could it save you more space in your warehouse?

Try swapping disadvantages for advantages and you will discover a whole new variety of positive selling points.


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Proofreading Technique #1: Print Your Documents and Check One Thing at a Time

January 16, 2010

You’ll be surprised to learn that many people…well-educated people… couldn’t even be bothered to edit their everyday work.

Let’s take the office for example. How many times have you personally received emails or letters that are riddled with misspelt names, bad grammar or even worse, illogically-written information (E.g “This is not a sales pitch, but we’d like you to take advantage of our early bird offer!)?

As a reader, how did you feel? What kind of impression was left on you?

In fact, not remembering to edit your work could cost you sales, goodwill and reputation.  It doesn’t show that you care much for or respect your readers, some of whom could be your most important business clients or even your CEO!

To ensure those horrible outcomes don’t happen to you, get into the habit of printing your documents and checking them on paper. If  your office is particular about saving paper, then use recycled documents where 1 side is available for printing.

When you read things on print, you don’t have to squint your eyes as often as you do on a computer screen. This makes it less tiring for your eyes and you can concentrate better on proofreading your work.

As you are revising your work, slow down your pace and check for one item at a time. For example, you may focus on spelling first, then grammar, then punctuation, then your choice of words.

This way, your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed by multiple things at a time and you’ll be able to spot more errors and produce a polished piece of work that you (and your readers!) can truly be proud of.


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When You Write: Top 5 Copywriting Mistakes That Could Cost You a Sale

January 15, 2010

Mistake #1 – Losing sight of your main purpose to sell

Solution: Always remember that the main goal of copywriting is to motivate and persuade. In other words, your writing should present more than just plain facts. At the same time, you shouldn’t let creativity divert you away from telling the right message. You want your target audience to remember the product or service you’re offering.

Mistake #2 – Writing boring copy

Solution: From the headline to your call to action, your copy must arouse interest. Weave stories into your copy, season your copy with colorful phrases, useful tips, emotional trigger words or anything that will increase your readers’ involvement in your story.

Mistake #3 – Misrepresenting your facts

Solution: Always do your research and make sure you get your facts straight. The worst thing you can ever do is open yourself to false claims and information that can’t be substantiated. ALWAYS be truthful and resist the temptation to distort  information just because you want to make a sale.

Mistake #4 – Using too much hype

Solution: Pepper your copy with too many “salesy” words like “unbelievable”, “amazing”, “incredible” and you will ruin your credibility. You want to persuade your readers in a believable, truthful way and not have them dismiss you as another person who’s trying to sell them something.

Mistake #5 – Forgetting to revise your work

Solution: Copy that’s riddled with grammatical and spelling errors leaves a bad impression on your readers. Weed out those errors. Always remember to check your facts, spelling and grammar and make sure you haven’t left anything out. Better yet, have someone else to look over your copy with a fresh pair of eyes.


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