“As a copywriter, you know you are doing a good job when no one comments on your work.”
Those were the first words of encouragement I received from my Director of Copy when I was a cheery-faced new copywriter.
At the time, I didn’t really understand that he was talking about ‘tone of voice’ and it took me many more years of practice to get the right voice into my copywriting.
Copywriting isn’t about ‘me’
What I have come to understand about my Director’s insight – that no one comments when you’re doing it right – is that a good copywriter uses the right tone of voice and says all the right things, so that the ‘conclusion’ in the mind of the reader is so obviously correct, that there is nothing to say.
When I’m writing for a client for the first time, I ask them about the tone of voice of the writing. This establishes the language, manner, and ‘sound’ of the voice we all hear in our heads when we read the copy.
But I don’t ask “what is the tone of voice for this” because no one knows what that means. Instead, I ask “whose voice should we hear when we read this?”
It’s something I alluded to in Stop Yo Jibba Jabba! The Mr. T Guide to Tone of Voice in Copywriting. If you don’t write the words in a way so that the reader ‘hears’ Mr T speaking, you’re not getting right the tone of voice.
It’s really difficult to use another voice
Everyone can write to some degree, and many businesses will try to do the copywriting themselves instead of getting the services of a copywriter.
But most people write the way they think it should sound.
That’s why so much advertising is boring – it all sounds the same precisely because everyone is writing the ad to sound like ‘advertising.’
They are all using the ‘advertising voice’ not a specific voice for the brand.
“Get all this for the low low price of twelve pounds ninety-nine, while supplies last.”
“…<insert product/service here> offers customers a solution to <insert problem>…”
There is nothing in this writing that is genuine, interesting or human. It is boring. But it’s easy to do.
How to find the right voice
Begin by asking yourself who you should hear when you read the words. If you are copywriter, ask your client who they want to hear.
Listen to clips from that personality, if he or she exists. Write a list of the words and phrases that personality uses. If it’s an archetype you’re going for (e.g. friendly neighbour), then imagine the kinds of phrases that person might use and make your list.
Once, I had a client tell me that the voice she wanted to hear was her granddad’s. He had passed away, so I asked her to tell me stories of granddad and quizzed her about the things he used to say. That way, I built up a picture of the man and had some of the language he used. This helped me create the right tone for the words, so that when my client read the copy, she heard her granddad.
I encourage you to practice using a different voice as a copywriter – be Mr T, just for fun – and write your copy from another person’s perspective. I guarantee you’ll have more fun with the copywriting, and your customers might just like it too.