Good copywriters have a distinct voice—and know when to crank it up or tone it down. Great copywriters know how to take on someone else’s voice entirely. They have a distinct voice, too, but they can manipulate it and disguise it to achieve a desired effect. It’s all about adapting to the client’s strategy—you essentially have to be a chameleon.
Voice plays a major role in any piece of content. It’s crucial in fiction, as authors must transform their writing style to fit the characters they’ve created. In television screenwriting, it’s even more essential—hopeful writers craft dialogue for existing TV characters in spec scripts, then submit to shows for a seat in the writers’ room. Mastering the voice of characters—or a brand—you didn’t create requires a particular set of skills. This is why voice is even more critical in copywriting.
Recently, a client asked us to write her website as if a popular actor and narrator were speaking the words. This was an intriguing request—an enticing challenge any copywriter would relish. But how do you manage the process of mimicking voice and channel it correctly?
The Tonal Rainbow
We’d been toying around with elements of voice and tone for a while. The MarketSmiths team created a robust list of descriptors for tone—all juxtaposed with their opposites. This formed a series of mini-spectrums, e.g., conversational vs. corporate, serious vs. playful, traditional vs. modern, etc.
After narrowing down the list, we had a manageable number of spectrums. (Seven, to be exact—kind of like a… rainbow!)
Using our “Tonal Rainbow” (patent-pending), we’re able to peek into a client’s mind and extract the elements that make up voice. As writers, this information helps us understand which techniques will achieve that client’s goals—and how to employ those techniques effectively.
Appeal to Your Reader’s Unconscious
When people read your copy, you want them focused on the substance—not the voice. You can use subtle techniques to set the tone, but don’t make these instruments your entire story. The voice you create through your words need to serve the overall message of the copy.
One useful technique is purposeful word choice. Your diction helps differentiate, say, conversational from corporate. For example, you wouldn’t use overly formal language if you wanted to sound conversational. “Synergy” sounds fine in a corporate context, but maybe that’s not how your client’s audience speaks. They might say, “We work better together.”
Another great tool is syntax, or the arrangement of your words. The way you structure a sentence speaks volumes when you have a specific voice in mind. Let’s say a client wants her brand to sound like Yoda from Star Wars. You’re not going to write an About Us page that says, “We are knowledgeable and passionate about lightsabers.” That sentence structure doesn’t sound like Yoda. But: “Knowledgeable and passionate about lightsabers, we are”? Much better.
Techniques like these can help establish your brand’s voice, unconsciously evoking an emotional response from readers. If your tone resonates with people—and they connect with the substance of your copy—you may have mastered the art of voice.
Or, should we say: Master of voice, you are.