HOW TO FIND AN EFFECTIVE
TONE FOR YOUR COPY
You’ve heard it before, but that doesn’t make it any less true: people buy from people.
Even in the most austere environments, one of the fastest ways to establish a rapport is through empathy. In other words, act like a human, not a corporate suit.
For some reason, when it comes to copy, writers feel the need to adopt a haughty tone to address their customers, or use needlessly complex language.
You’ll see this from business-to-business organisations more often than consumer-facing brands, but even high-street names can be guilty of it.
Typically, this leads to one of two (or in fact two of two) outcomes. You won’t achieve the all-important personal connection that helps you engage your reader. And you’ll make your copy trickier to digest – even for those who consider themselves to have an enviable command of language.
Tone it down
The good news is, writing in an accessible, affable manner is clearly easier and quicker than crafting convoluted copy.
"You’ll find that simple, unfussy terms also deliver punchier copy."
And there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure you maintain the right tone.
First, and we’ve covered this already, write as if you’re talking directly to an individual customer or prospect. That means two things: second-person pronouns, and an informal, conversational style – with varied sentence lengths.
Secondly, chuck out the fusty old grammar lessons you picked up in school and play with your prose. Use contractions to loosen up your lexis: “there’s”, “it’s”, “won’t”,etc. You can also ditch that age-old (and wholly outdated) rule that you should never start a sentence with a conjunction, too. Using “and” or “but” not only helps to vary the pace of your copy, but also injects some familiarity into it.
Another way to keep your tone friendly and engaging is to drop syllable-heavy words in favour of shorter, snappier terms.
Copywriting guru Andy Maslen is a big fan of this one. Bin your thesaurus (or maybe just leave it on the shelf) and your copy will benefit from being much easier to digest.
It’ll also lessen the risk of alienating readers who find needlessly complex language a big turn-off.
You’ll find that simple, unfussy terms also deliver punchier copy.
For example, opting for “new” rather than “innovative”. Or dropping “complimentary” in favour of “free”. Perhaps swapping out esoteric phrases like “efficacy” for “results”. And not using the adjective “esoteric”…
A caveat here is that you’ll need to keep one eye on your reader’s penchant for buzzwords, and other vogue sector-specific terms.
As much as they can be hackneyed and “me too”, when used in moderation they’ll provide you with a shorthand to generate empathy and a recognition that you understand your reader.
This article appears in our free guide to copywriting. If you're interested in learning more about high-performing copywriting...
Ditch the prissy prose and keep your copy simple.
Opt for personal pronouns.
Use contractions where suitable: e.g., “it’s”, “can’t”, “won’t”, etc.
And don’t be afraid to start sentences with… “and”, “but”, “or”, “however”.