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  • Writer's pictureElliott Pak

Five Tips on How to Write in the Most Compelling, Natural Voice Possible (Writing Like You Talk)



Surprising not-that-surprising fact: people like reading stuff that sounds like a natural human being talking.


People do NOT like reading stuff that sounds like some personality-less robot or some high-level business executive. If you're an E-commerce brand looking to establish a voice for your company, it's vital that you speak like a human.


Whether you want to sound like your girlfriend at brunch, your favorite teacher from college, your wise father after a few beers, or your asshole best friend - there are a couple of tools you can use to make it all become a little bit more authentic-sounding on paper.


How I Found My Voice


Not to toot my own horn, but if there's one thing I'm good at, it's writing exactly how I talk and showcasing voice and personality in my copy. I always get asked by other writers (especially those in the fiction field) the dreaded question:


How did you find your voice?


I hate that question. I always feel like some kind of an asshole, because I'm aware that it's often a long, tough process for most, but my answer is always just some form of:


"I don't know I just write as I talk."


And they either respond "Oh you're so lucky" or they just think to themselves "f*** this guy."


No, I didn't learn how to write in some high-level writing course or from reading classic novels.

Want to know where I first cut my teeth on developing my voice?


Writing sarcastic status updates on Facebook and Twitter.


Ah, the days when my self-confidence came from a red notification dot on my phone.


It's true, every single person has their own unique writing voice hidden within them. I can't speak for everyone, but for me (and probably you, yes, I'm going to speak for you) is a voice you already possess and speak with every single day.


It might sound counter-intuitive, but being able to write in a natural speaking voice is not just some "gift" that some people are blessed with. Just like everything else, there are rules and tools that you can practice to help you become better at writing the way you speak.


If you're a small business that's trying to establish a voice, it's ESPECIALLY important that you sound human and relatable, because NO ONE wants to buy from a dry robot that sounds like every other company out there.


(Go ahead. Open the promotions folder in your inbox and tell me who sounds like a real person talking to you, and who sounds like a 7th grader right-clicking and thesaurus-ing every word.)

I'm going to give you a few quick, simple tips that will help you sound more like...you.


1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify


Can't say this enough. For every single client I've ever had, I spend the first few days editing down 90% of their previous copy because...the words are too big.


Stop using huge words no one knows, stop using jargon that only industry insiders know, stop using hot business slang that you think makes you sound cool.


We need to leverage best practices. It's time to shift the paradigm. We focus on growth hacking your prospective markets.


(shudder)


It doesn't sound smart, it sounds pretentious and confusing. And if you're advertising to the general public, no one in their right mind is going to look up what you're talking about.


If you're having trouble simplifying your message down, check out the two magic words that will help you translate your message to the general public.


2. Change Up the Length of Your Sentences


Short sentences are great. Medium sentences are great. Long sentences are great. WHEN you mix them all up and use them interchangeably.


Why? Because that's how we talk as human beings. And just like in the real world, we get bored with repetition. Establish patterns (similar sentences), then break them up. Keep the reader on their toes.


Consider this passage from Seabiscuit:

"As the train lurched into motion, Seabiscuit was suddenly agitated. He began circling around and around the car in distress. Unable to stop him, Smith dug up a copy of Captain Billy's Whiz Bang magazine and began reading aloud. Seabiscuit listened. The circling stopped. As Smith read on, the horse sank down into the bedding and slept. Smith drew up a stool and sat by him."

(I want to read to a horse now.)


3. Use Punctuation to Convey Emotion


As Roy Peter Clark puts it in his book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer:

"Let punctuation control pace and space. [...] Most punctuation is required, but some is optional, leaving the writer with many choices. My modest goal is to highlight these choices, to transform the formal rules of punctuation into useful tools."

Amazing. But I'll take it one step further. If you're writing fiction, or you're a journalist, there are obviously some rules you must follow. But for your copy, your advertisements, your social media posts, your blog content -


Who gives a crap about rules?


Don't get locked into rules if you're going to write like you speak. Why? Because people don't speak with perfect grammar and punctuation rules.


One problem that we have as writers is that we only have a limited set of keys that we can use to express an idea - and we can't use our actual speaking voice, which is incredibly multi-dimensional compared to words on a screen. We can scream, whisper, slur, speak quickly, and use our eyes to convey further meaning -


Compared to that, writing black words on a white screen seems incredibly lackluster. Right?


WRONG!


Whoever blessed us with punctuation and the keyboard gave us a ton of tools. Tell me how you read the following sentences:

  • WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?

  • Uh...I'm...not sure if...that's the right idea...

  • “Oh, I’ll definitely do that, thank you!” (I was going to do it anyway. Jackass.)

  • Yeah. Okay. Do that then. See if I care.

Just scratching the surface. Use your italics, your bolds, use every dot, every symbol, every key to help you convey as much human voice and emotion as possible (within reason).


If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of using italics and parentheses to convey my thoughts while the "regular" words do the talking. One incredibly successful copywriter I know does the same thing by making his thought texts smaller than the rest of the text.


Play around with your punctuation to see what portrays the emotion you're trying your best to convey. Make it your own.


4. Get Your First Draft Down as Quickly As Possible.


Don't think, write. Let your brain vomit hard and fast through your fingers (proud of this sentence). This will help you get your natural ideas out in its rawest form.


Bad news, it's going to suck. Really bad.


Good news, no one's going to see it, and you can edit it until the end of time. (Don't though)


5. Read it out loud.


Your words and sentences, just like music, have a rhythmic cadence to them. It's a lot harder to hear that cadence when you're brain-farting words onto the screen, backspacing, researching information, twiddling your thumbs, etc.


Read it out loud. Pretend like you're speaking to someone. Raise your voice when you normally would. Speed up when you normally would.


Does it sound like you? Does it sound like something you'd say if you were telling a story at a party with a cocktail in your hand? Does it sound clunky and awkward? Are you boring yourself to death just hearing yourself speak?


Well then fix it. Duh.


Hope that helped!


I hope some of these strategies were helpful to you. It's obviously not a comprehensive list, but they might be some good starting points to get started with.


And for God's sake, let's dispel this stupid myth that writ


ing is some God-given talent. Every single person has the ability to write if they put their mind to it. Just like everything else, it takes practice.


Keep writing friends!


But if you're a small business looking to establish a voice that makes people go


"How the hell is this company so damn charming and funny and amazing and probably good-looking?" or "Is it possible to be physically attracted to a company because of the voice in their emails?"


Drop me a line. Let's make your company's voice sexy.


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1 Comment


HEO JIHYEON
HEO JIHYEON
Jan 19, 2023

Amazing! it's inspiring and also realistic. Thanks!

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