Determine the Writing Style
Read a thriller novel and the style is fast paced and loaded with action. Cozy up with a romance and you're spellbound by a budding relationship that struggles to grow and blossom. Review an academic paper and you expect to find an intelligent argument based on solid research and analytical thinking. Every writing genre has its own unique style, and copywriting is no different.
So what exactly is style? In a nutshell, it concerns your choice of words, how you structure your sentences, and the basic tone and personality of your writing. Style also speaks to the pace of the writing. Is it fast? Slow? Methodical? And even voice plays a role. Who's doing the talking? A helpful expert? A friendly advisor? A slick salesperson? A cautious committee? The detached bureaucracy of a major corporation?
There is a lot of misinformation about copywriting style. There are some who insist that sales copy should reach out and grab the prospect by the shirt collar and then, with Ginsu knife precision, overpower him with hard-selling words and phrases. Others balk at this approach, saying that great copywriting is really about being clever and creative, with catchy slogans and an inventive use of language. There are still others — especially in the business-to-business sector — who claim that copy should be formal and businesslike, so the reader will be impressed.
So what's the truth? Yes, copy should be attention grabbing, creative, impressive, catchy, inventive, and employ the elements of effective salesmanship. But that doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be aggressive, clever, or businesslike. The best writing style is one that elicits the best audience response. And how do you determine that? Ask your audience!
It's the target audience — all those prospects and customers you are trying to persuade — that is the best source of information on how to weave your words.
Sometimes it's easy. For example, if the market for your promotion is IT professionals, then you can expect your copy style to be explanatory, technically detailed, in-depth, and expansive. People in the IT professions like a lot of solid information, with minimal use of expressive prose.
If you're writing a brochure aimed at teenagers who love computer games, you might guess that your writing style should be adventurous, fast paced, and fun. And you'd be right.
In just about any kind of promotion, copy that sounds like it has been written by a human being works better than text that seems like it has been churned out by a machine or vetted relentlessly by a committee. Copy that speaks to the reader engages the reader. Copy that speaks at the reader accomplishes nothing.
What Does the Prospect Read?
It's not always easy to guess which copywriting style and tone will work best for a particular target audience. What if you're writing a sales letter to be sent to accountants? Or working moms? Or retirees? Or entrepreneurs? How do you determine how to reach them persuasively with the right words, sentences, and paragraphs?
The most effective — and fortunately the easiest — way to determine your ideal writing style is to read what your audience reads. Every professional, business, and special-interest group — from plumbers to high-school students to middle-aged tennis enthusiasts — has publications that are dedicated to their needs. If you want to write copy that persuades retired travelers, then Travel 50 & Beyond magazine should be something you should review. Study the magazines, newsletters, and Web sites that your target audience is already reading. Then use a similar style in your own copy.
Here's another great tip that makes this process even faster. Find a magazine that your target audience reads, and then read the opening letter from the editor. It's typically located within the first few pages. Editors know how to speak to their readers in a style and language that works best.
Beware of Corporatespeak
Corporatespeak is the stiff formality that some copywriting suffers from, especially in business-to-business communications. This is the result of a writer thinking that the copy should be written this way, or a company review committee scrutinizing every word. What gets lost is a genuine connection to the prospect.