When I was young, I always wanted to be a writer. I fancied words, and words attracted me—the longer, the better; the more esoteric, the better; the rarer, the better.
Yet the first thing that I learnt when I started out as a copywriter, it is that the simpler your English is, the better for your career.
“Keep it at above 60,” said my mentor, glancing at the Flesch score.
I did. I even went above 80 in a few instances.
How? I stopped reading the New Yorker and picked up the Times in Plain English instead. I didn’t stop reading academic papers but rather ramped up on my Hemingway reading. As a matter of fact, his writing style is very precise and to the point for a fiction writer.
Lastly, I started off with writing a personal letter to myself every day. Let me tell you, I am an introvert and I don’t like getting vocal with my feelings and emotions – even with myself. Expression, and that also, clear and concise expression, is the “chink in my armour”. (What a thing to come from a writer, right?) I would rather think than write.
For me, thinking is something I like to do but what I figured is, only when you put your pen on the paper do we develop the subtle mind-finger coordination—a necessity for any kind of writer—that is, the ability to write exactly what you are thinking about.
This is where personal letter writing helped me a lot. Aligning my inner thoughts and emotions with the words flowing out of my hand.
Yet, one thing to note, don’t focus on readability, sentence structure or vocabulary usage first. Instead, focus on whether you are truly connecting with your target audience at a personal level.
Step 1. Understand your audience. What they eat, what they drink, what they talk about, what they fear, what they love, what they show off, what they want…and so on.
Step 2. Understand the language they speak. Do they use “maybe” instead of “perhaps”? Do they love to speak in one-word sentences? Do they usually respond to logic or emotion?
Step 3. Write, write and write some more. The more you write, the more you exercise your writing muscles. Very, very important.
Forget about your English teacher.
Forget about those copywriting gurus.
Forget about yourself.
Only your audience matters. That’s how you master Copywriter’s English.