One of the most pervasive copywriting tropes is this idea that you should write like you talk.
The ideas being…
Most people suck at writing. But they don’t suck at talking. Or at least, they don’t suck as much.
Second, people speak in simpler terms than they often try to write. Put a keyboard in front of some jabroni, and all the sudden, they’re using words they’d never actually use in real life. Usually, these are complex words that half your audience won’t understand, and half the writers won’t even use in the correct context.
Plus, the whole “write like you talk” thing is supposed to make writing seem, well, easier. It’s a form of addressing writing-PTSD because we all learned writing in prison- (er, schools) and have grown to hate it. Writing like you talk makes it sound easier than you were taught in school.
And while this is supposed to be mainly geared towards new writers, the lazy copywriters on X (fka Twitter) tweet out copywriting “tips” like this until their fingers bleed.
And yes, while it is good-ish advice for beginners, it’s leads to a whole host of bad habits like:
Using filler words that don’t add much to your copy
Convoluted ideas that become cloudier and cloudier the more complex they get
Always writing at a third grade level, which takes all the vigor out of your writing
I could go on and on.
But I t’won’t.
I dove back into the world of Robert Galbraith’s (JK Rowling’s pen name) crime novels recently. And in the book I’m reading, The Ink Black Heart, JK reveals, in excruciating detail, another reason why you shouldn’t write like you talk.
The Ink Black Heart happens in modern day, and it’s loosely based on JK’s interaction with social media trolls who she’s pissed right off for saying that she’s happy being a wamen.
As such, inside the pages of The Ink Black Heart, JK often writes as if she’s a teenage girl recording a YouTube video.
Nothing—and I mean no thing, yessireebob—epitomizes why professional copywriters should not write like they talk.
Case in point, check out this excerpt of JK writing as a teenage fan of the fictitious cartoon involved in murder, as if she were recording a YouTube video:
“Soooo, I guess some people will just say ‘oh, she’s like the bitter ex-girlfriend’ or whatever, but what’s kind of messing with my head is that it isn’t Josh saying ‘yeah, I like took inspiration from a friend or an ex or whatever,’ it’s like she’s saying she came up with it all independently and I’m . . . like, if it were one of the things, yeah, maybe, I guess coincidences happen or whatever, but it’s, like, really crazy to me that she’s sitting there saying ‘yeah, I can’t remember where I got the idea for the heart, it just came to me’ or whatever, like how could you not remember a thing like that?... [S]o anyway, yeah, that’s basically all I’ve got to say, and I just want to put it out there because, like I say, this is for my self-respect or whatever. I just wanted to, um, say my piece or whatever. Soooo . . . yeah.”
See all the obvious mistakes and persuasion-killing mistakes in the nonsensical passage above?
That’s what you sound like when you “write like you talk,” cully.
But don’t worry, I ain’t gonna leave you hangin’ dry.
The solution to this problem is quite simple:
Instead of writing like you talk, write like you think.
No, it won’t be as easy.
Yes, you’ll have to use that big organ between your earholes more.
But your writing will become more persuasive, and thus, more profitable.
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