The lazy, hazy days of summer are almost here. Need some good
beach reading? Here are three of my favorites. Two have to do with
writing (Bob Bly's book is the one every copywriter should have) and
the other is just pure fun.
"The Copywriter's Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy
That Sells" by Robert W. Bly. This book is my bible. It's always
within reach. Bly confirms my "conversational style" theory.
"Escaping Into The Open: The Art Of Writing True" by Elizabeth
Berg. Thanks to Candy O'Terry for getting me an autographed copy of
this excellent and inspiring book on writing. You know the people
who say you can't have success overnight? Well, Berg is the
exception. And unlike many writers, she actually ENJOYS writing. Go
"The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown. Okay, the writing is sometimes
stiff and the dialogue a bit contrived, but I COULDN'T PUT THIS BOOK
DOWN. And I'm still obsessing with his claims and the controversy
surrounding them. A great read for anyone who likes history,
mystery, and a good conspiracy theory.
Plug Alert: Check out my article on wedding gowns in a supplement to
The Boston Globe Magazine on June 13th. Or click here for more
articles on my website.
A conversational style is the most effective form of
copywriting (I'd argue that it's the most effective form of
ANY writing, but that's a subject for a different newsletter).
Why is it so effective? Simple. Your reader doesn't have to
struggle to understand the message. This "brain comfort" is
important when you consider all the different messages vying
for our attention every day.
Just because it ultimately sounds simple, though, doesn't
mean it's easy to write. Having a conversational "voice" takes
practice. And it often means breaking the conventional rules
of English grammar (of course, I DO advocate learning the
proper rules before breaking them). Here are five tips to keep
#1 Use Contractions|
||Remember, it's all about your reader. You'll grab 'em
faster, and they're more likely to consider your message if
it's delivered in a conversational tone (think one friend
talking to another). See how many contractions I used in the
above sentence? We talk in contractions, so it makes sense to
write with them (they're also great when you have a strict
#2 Start Sentences with "And" or
||I know you English teachers are cringing. But since we
start sentences in real-life conversations with 'and' or
'but,' we need to do the same in our conversational writing.
It'll make the writing sound more authentic. And that's the
#3 End Sentences with
||Ending sentences with prepositions is one thing most
copywriters can agree on. See? It's much more awkward to say,
"Ending sentences with prepositions is something on which most
writers can agree."
#4 Keep Sentences Short 'n Punchy|
||One of my editors wants me to keep my leads to 16 words
or less. Most conversational sentences should be even shorter
than that. Less is more. Really.
#5 When In Doubt, Talk It Out|
||Aren't sure how to say something in a conversational
way? Pretend you're talking to your best friend. Then say what
you want to say out loud. Now, write it that way. It really is
as simple as that.
The nice thing about learning to write in a conversational
style is that it translates nicely to every medium -- from
websites to fiction to emails to love letters. Learn this art
form and keep your readers spellbound every time.