Don’t Take That Tone With Me!
“It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it; there lies the secret of the ages.”
William Carlos Williams
Are you using the correct tone for your business? Often people can struggle to find a voice or tone for their copy that fits your brand perfectly in order to best appeal to your audience.
This handy basic guide to tone can provide the first steps to finding your perfect tone. But remember, this isn’t a definitive guide – your copywriter should, and will, always have their own ideas. With your business expertise and your copywriter’s skills, you are sure to find the perfect voice for your company.
Ideally you should work from a style guide when you are writing. If you don’t have one start writing one immediately! You have no idea how useful they can be, not only for writing the best content, but for saving time! But while they are excellent for the final word on capitalization, hyphenation or accepted spellings etc., they often have a generic description about tone, something along the lines of “Make sure your tone addresses the key needs and viewpoints of the target demographics blah blah blah…”
If you are just starting a style or tone guide, here are some basic ideas to get you going:
Step 1: Research your product and target market as much as possible.
Granted that in the industry you are often expected to produce work on a deadline, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have time to get to know your product – chat to people who work at the company if possible, find out what it is that they love or find rewarding about their jobs. This should give you a basic insight into the company and their services or products. If you don’t have time or the deadline is in an hour, spend at least 15 minutes on the website.
Step 2: Imagine who you are talking to with your writing.
Whether it is a blog or an ecommerce site, who are you actually speaking to? Remember those practise exercises at uni where you took a random picture of somebody, tried to work out what their needs and wants were and then wrote copy that was just for them? Do it! Keep a picture of your target market on your desk, or better yet, get a whole range of pictures, one for each website or tone.
Right, the tones:
Your client is producing things that are cutting edge, at the forefront of the digital or technological world. Be brief and excited. Show how this product is going to change the world (while avoiding cliches at all costs!). Focus on the details.
Antithesis: traditional, old fashioned or antique
Elegant and Sophisticated
Your client has established themselves at the pinnacle of the luxury goods market through quality, exclusivity and heritage. They are not going to ask you to “Check out this great deal!!!”.
You are writing to people who more than likely don’t need this product – they want it as a luxury, so show them, don’t persuade them and never tell them what to do! Be descriptive about the best qualities of the product. Use the thesaurus to ensure you emphasis the value and craftsmanship that went into the product. Identify a unique facet or story or detail that will make a great story for your client to casually drop into conversation at the next cocktail party.
Antithesis: Too friendly, common (Discount or wholesale bargains)
Think sports equipment, adventure gear or mountain bikes. Use bullet points – your reader needs the information presented quickly and easily. Your verbs should be powerful and you should never write in the passive voice! At the heart of a good sports page should be a strong CTA or challenge.
Antithesis: Lazy, reactionary
Ideal for the repair, sales or service industry where you want to establish a returning client base. Use testimonials and show how you have fixed mistakes you have made. Make it clear that you have been in the industry for a while and have enough experience to cover any problem. Convince your client that you are there to take care of them no matter the time of day.
Don’t make massive promises; make promises that you know you can keep and then make sure you keep them!
Antithesis: Fly by night, wholesale, discount, bargain
Often incorrectly treated as synonymous with dependable, this tone is more about creating a personal connection with your target market and is excellent for services or products. Use stories and anecdotes from your clients, give names and places where things happened.
Your client should feel like they are on a first name basis with the owner and everyone who works there. Just be careful to remain professional so no cat pics.
Friendly, Fun, Hip
Ideal for most music, “lowbrow art” or pop culture and merch, less expensive clothing and accessories.
You are starting a conversation with people, so speak their language, so use colloquial language and avoid jargon. Avoid overuse of slang as it will date very quickly. Be careful of exclamation marks – don’t over do it!
If you are writing for kids, they are so much smarter than you think. They want to be taken seriously and want their identities to be recognized. So if you are writing for children, imagine that you are writing to a child a few years older than you think they are – you would be amazed at how easily people talk down to children and how quickly they will block you as a result.
Antithesis: Professional or technical
Ideal for the medical, funeral or health care professions. Be aware of your target markets needs. State the problem and then show how you are going to make their lives easier and be there for them. Avoid cliches – people won’t believe you.
Be comforting and reassuring without being smothering. Remember you don’t know what they are going through and probably never will, so don’t make comparisons.
Most common on how-to guides or DIY. Get to the point quickly and simply.So use use bullet points and avoid adjectives or adverbs. Explain things step by step – they may seem obvious to you, but your target market might not understand if you skip a step.
No exclamation marks!
Antithesis: Elegant, verbose
You are writing to people who already know the industry, so be confident about your product, state the benefits and the ROI.
- Avoid adjectives and adverbs
- No slang at all. Use Jargon and industry related terms
- Acronyms should be used where possible and relevant
- Get to the point about your writing
If somebody comments on something you wrote, no matter what their tone is, maintian yours and reply as soon as possible
Of course, these are just my opinions. Depending on your audience, you are welcome to, and often expected to, break all the rules.
For expert copywriting, social media presence management, content marketing and other services, contact WSI Internet Marketing.