Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Writing Is A One To One Conversation

This is a piece inspired by a great article by Lois Geller from a couple of years back, in Forbes. Give it a read if you can.

In effective writing, good sense of wording, grammar and flow are important.

(Speeling is important too.)

But too often what’s overlooked is the need to sound, well, human. It’s an obvious point in a way, but writing should sound natural. Outside of a few situations, it needs to sound like one human being, talking to another.

That’s nowhere more true than in advertising. No one is obliged to read an ad. So if you want people to pay attention, it helps to make them feel like something similar to a human being is talking to them.

It’s nothing short of amazing that even today you find ads that talk at you with all the mood and humanity of a barking dog wearing clothes and a wig.

(Still more surprising is the number of big-budget movies which fall into the same trap.)

So how do you go about sounding more human?

It’s simple. By writing the way that you talk. You don’t need to add heaps of ums and ahs to every pause. You don’t need to keep the mumbles and repetitions and meanderings. Just try to bring the rhythm and feel of speech into each sentence you write. 

Think about the way in which you would say those words – and if it sounds right, if that line sounds like you. That’s the fundamental test for each word – the authenticity.

Lines breaks are important, because we don’t just speak in sentences. We speak in a conversation, with real, solid pauses and ebbs and flows.

So each fragment should be accessible, engaged – and sometimes a little playful.

(Using asides can help with this I hear.)

Above all, your writing needs to come out sounding like the best version of you. That doesn’t mean sounding fancy. It doesn’t mean leaning on long words to enhance your meaning (unless it makes sense in the context). It just means sounding like a structured, thoughtful, directed speaker.

Tone and feel are everything. Sounding human is essential. Listen to one of those injury claim robocalls and tell me that isn’t the case.

You’re a human being. But your writing is how you prove it.

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