On the flipside, it runs the risk of being stiff and lacking in personality. In contrast, informal language can more easily be filled with personality and warmth, yet may be accused of being reckless and lacking professionalism. I asked writer Lucie Bright a few questions:.
We write the way we speak, and we speak to everyone the same way we speak to our friends. But without the swearing. We always try to keep things clear and simple wherever we can, and people have always seemed to like that. Are there things you do to help your tone of voice be consistent? We only employ people who understand innocent, and then we let them write whatever they want.
There aren't really any rules. Apart from no swearing. Lots of people in my office have read your A Book About innocent. The innocent story is a real story, about real friends, told truthfully. You couldn't make half the stuff up, to be honest.
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We've had a lot of fun along the way, and we've not been afraid to talk about that side of it, the human side, the mistakes and the friendships and the parties and the stolen moose's heads. It's all been part of the adventure. Everyone who works here knows the innocent story inside out. But to be honest we don't think that much about storytelling normally — unless we're working on something like a TV ad. We just try to speak and write as clearly as we can, telling the truth about our drinks and the other things we make, and hope that all the parts add up to some kind of coherent whole.
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We're fans of consistency, across words and design, so we like brands like Selfridges, Rapha, Peppersmith and Hiut Denim, who all have a reliably consistent and good-looking output. Of course, there will be times when technical terms are needed because they are very specific in their meaning. Yet, wherever possible, consider using everyday language that your audience will understand. Call to mind the journalistic principle KISS — keep it simple, stupid.
Studies have shown that customers tend to favour more naturalistic language in marketing copy. The use of obscure or unknown terms may alienate a customer who, as a result, will find the text overly difficult to read. Using simple language can also inspire more of a sense of trust and intimacy with your audience. Having said that, take the dictum too far and you might end up patronising your audience with babyish language.
I propose that technical terms can be left unchanged if they are familiar and understood by the vast majority of your audience. The use of colloquial language is a sure-fire way of injecting personality. The same goes for pop culture references.
It is probably a good idea to avoid these in static copy. Whether highly colloquial, dialectic or slang language is appropriate, in part, depends on the diversity of your audience. If your customers are all of a similar age or geographic location, it may work very nicely.
Scottish beer seller BrewDog was featured in many publications for its dealings with the ASA after being accused of using offensive language. This may have been because this type of language lent the emails an evocative, honest feel. Of course, the suitability of swear words will depend on the nature of the brand itself. In all cases, however, copious amounts of swearing will diminish its shock-factor and effectiveness.
Moreover, the writers may be accused of an inability to express themselves well or of being recklessly offensive.
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Approach with caution! The answers to some of the above questions may lie in how your customers already talk about your products or services. The choice of pronouns can make a marked difference to marketing copy, setting up the nature of the relationship between the company and its customer.
The first suggests that the company reacts to the customer. While seemingly more proactive in its approach, the company featured in the second sentence nonetheless positions its own agency ahead of that of its customer. There may be times when the second, pronoun-less sentence is more appropriate.
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For example, when the writer wants to create a sense of distance, such as when referring to something unpleasant or awkward in nature. With such an emphasis on great content these days, companies may be keen to tighten up their use of grammar. There are some grammatical rules you may not wish to follow because you see them to be out-of-date or unhelpful to your way of speaking. Particularly when used in speech, whom can sound a bit stiff.
For the amount of effort it can take to work out whether to use who or whom , the word does little to help understanding. However, there may be times when it lends a certain gravity to a sentence. Perhaps we should all get less hung up on restrictive clauses. According to English teachers across the land, these should appear in the middle of a sentence, not shamefully flaunted at its beginning.
But mm hmm they can make for punchy sentence openings and helpfully break up long, flagging sentences. A knowing use of this faux pas can make for an impactful statement.
Grammar is less about correctness per se, and more about context. Each medium will have its own conventions. A formal letter to a prospective employer will be written using different language than a text message for a friend. With only characters to play with, writers use all manner of contractions, abbreviations and condensed wording. The world of brands and advertising has hailed a new age of brevity in language.
Words and meaning must be squashed into punchy sayings, slogans and copy on the side of teeny tiny packaging. Single-word sentences have made an appearance, while grammatical rules have been put through the wringer. H umorous sites such as Buzzfeed and Cracked are currently dominating the internet. In turn, it seems likely that other brands will follow suit in their use of comedy. But is humour suitable for your brand? In its company tone of voice guide, MailChimp explains the importance of words shaping how users feel rather than simply what they think or know.
Embracing colloquial, everyday language helps people to forge an emotional connection with the text. Writers embrace the silly side of things for error messages. MailChimp tends to laugh at itself, not the customer. This self-deprecating quality not only helps to endear the readers, but to suggest a down-to-earth character for its brand.
Freddie helps celebrate a successfully scheduled email — tomoswyn. Having a company mascot can provide a kind of springboard for humour. Freddie gives writers the confidence to say things that they may otherwise feel are too bold. The cartoon chimp also pops up at various places on the website, generating ideas for copy through performing different actions. While the humour is dialled up or down at times, MailChimp invariably applies its sense of wit across all of its copy. These things happen for a number of reasons Subtle humour can often work wonders.
Although MailChimp does sometimes tell outright jokes that are funny for the sake of being funny , much of its humour appears in a more subtle form. In turn, the humour helps build meaning, rather than obscure or confuse it. More so than many other clothing brands, Ted Baker has a distinctive tone of voice, as typified through its quirky use of tongue-in-cheek humour. Whereas many brands choose furry animals or other cute, cartoon-like forms as mascots, Ted Baker takes a different tact.
Its mascot is Ted Baker himself — an elusive figure who never actually personally speaks but is referred to at various times and places. In this way, Ted acts as a kind of alter ego for brand creator Ray Kelvin, providing a more compelling version of himself around which writers can centre their humorous copy.
This, in part, comes from the drawing on an eclectic mix of subject matter.