People who sit on the fence and mumble get ignored. We like listening to interesting and exciting people.
People who speak up and speak with the courage of their convictions get heard.
And it’s exactly the same when it comes to writing. Confidence and a dash of attitude are essential for arresting copy.
As an example, the video shows an entry from the Brave New Voices finals of 2012. I can guarantee that if you started watching it, then you watched it all the way through.
Understand what you have to say
You need to know, for certain, where you stand on your topic. Even if it is marketing on a new technology product, imagine you are a member of the target demographic and think about how it could help you. Work out why you are making it’s case. Remember -
The great majority of writing problems come from approximations in one’s mind.
That quote is taken from Ayn Rand’s, ‘The Art of Nonfiction’. I am not making a political statement by quoting her. Put your preconceptions to one side – that particular work is an excellent series of lectures on writing well-argued, valuable and powerful nonfiction pieces. Another gem from her chapter on judging your audience is equally applicable here:
Nothing is self evident.
How can you expect to expound on a topic if you know nothing about it? Bluster and … that other ‘b’ word … will only get you so far. There must be substance and information at the heart of what you write. That doesn’t mean you can’t discuss the smallest of topics, just be sure you research it well.
Leveraging the language
The next step for articulating with attitude: look at your building blocks - the words:
- Keep your words short, punchy and to the point
- Use action words. Compare ‘They are doing really well’ with ‘They are succeeding’.
- Avoid avoidance. Could, would, should. Might, maybe, perhaps.
- Engage with your reader by using personal pronouns: you, we, I. ‘The company wants to provide users with the best customer service.’ vs ‘We want to give you the best customer service.’
Grab some gumption
What you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style. If you write, you must believe in the truth and worth of the scrawl, in the ability of the reader to receive and decode the message. – Strunk and White
This is the bit for which there are no special tricks or bullet points to help you out. You simply have to practice and stop being bashful about the sound of your voice on the page. Don’t assume everything you write is brilliant: that’s just arrogance. But begin to have faith that when you write at your best, people will not only want to listen, but they’ll enjoy it too.
Fake it till you make it
In the meantime, try these tips that will help you get going today:
- Sit up straight.
- Put on your favourite rock anthem, crank up the volume and get the blood pumping.
- Don’t let an ephemeral expression slow you down. Use TK when you get stuck and deal with it later.
- Cut your copy. The fewer words you have to use the more impact each one has.
- Fly through your copy on a caffeine high. (Never sugar – the crash is too hard).