Sometimes people tell me they can’t write. And, as professional copywriters, we’re torn when we hear them say that.
On the one hand, we get a momentary surge of pride. We’re providing a unique service, yay. We’re on a par with astronauts and brain surgeons…
But then reality sets in. And that’s when we tell them the truth…
Anyone can write.
I think I can’t sing. But then my best friend will tell me that’s not true. She says I’ve got a unique style. ‘Unique’ sounds like it should be code for something else, but we know what she means because it’s just like writing. Everyone can do it. It’s just a matter of confidence.
So why aren’t we all a lot more confident about writing? Blame school. Those of us of a certain generation have had it drummed into us… You must never start a sentence with ‘and’ they’d say. Or ‘but’. (People test me on this at least twice a week.) But of course, it’s absolutely, definitely okay. And you can quote me on that.
The arcane arts
The rules don’t just take the fun out of writing, they make it seem like an arcane art that only highly practised masters of the language can ever hope to master.
But it’s really not.
Good writing channels ideas simply and clearly. And copywriters know the test of good business writing is the all-important bottom line. So if your newsletters inspire people to read that makes you a good writer. If your sales letters sell, you’re a good writer.
Can’t write, won’t write?
We’re lucky enough to meet lots of new people doing this job. And plenty of them tell us they can’t write. While that’s good for us copywriters, it still makes me us feel a bit sad at Clear Comms. After all, we all enjoy writing – and we think it’s a shame if other people don’t enjoy it too.
The even sadder thing is that some of the people who tell us they’re not great writers are great talkers. Incredible raconteurs with a wonderful turn of phrase and a unique tone of voice. And with a bit of practice, they’d make great writers too.
So, if you’re one of those people, don’t tell yourself you can’t write. Just think of it as a skill you haven’t fully mastered yet.
Copywriting skills you can learn
Most of what a copywriter does can be learnt. For example, you’ll get better at editing your work the more you edit. You’ll get more attuned to writing in ways your audiences will respond to. But tone of voice is more instinctive.
Copywriters are good at working out a tone of voice for your company based on you, your marketplace and your customer expectations. But you can do that too. After all, you are that person, you’re in that marketplace, and it’s you that works most closely with your customers.
I’m tired of reading websites and brochures that all sound the same, either because they’re too safe, or trying too hard to be zany.
Your customers want better. And the good news is, you can give them better.
If you don’t think you’re a good writer, try this and see if it helps…
When you need to write something, just write it like you’d say it. Exactly like you’d say it. Say it out loud as you write it down if it helps. You’ll probably need to polish it up a bit. But if you can turn your distinctive speaking voice into a writing voice, you’ll have the basis of some wonderfully compelling copy.
Better yet, it’ll sound authentic and distinctive. And customers will soon start to recognise it as your voice. So even if you’re vying with scores of similar service providers, you’ll still stand out.