Great grandma wanted me to join “The Optimist Club”—so I did. It seemed a funny thing to do in the midst of a (rather depressing) global pandemic, but they needed a professional to judge their annual essay contest, and, as a professional writer, I fit the bill. I came to realize something fundamental that all successful copywriters must grasp: Audiences crave an uplifting voice to guide them through the day.
What does optimistic copywriting mean, really? It seems all around us there’s doom and gloom. Optimistic copywriting seeks to change that. Obviously, writing can’t all be sunshine and rainbows—especially when we’re attempting to tap into a pain point. But the best copywriting finds a way to offer solutions with positivity and a glass half-full attitude that inspires consumer or client confidence and trust. So how do we do that? Let’s consider a few ways to make all of our copy more optimistic.
Know the audience.
There was a time when frightening readers into purchases was a very popular—and even effective—copywriting strategy. That is changing. While every audience has its own unique challenges and needs, all readers want empathy, knowledge, and uplifting solutions. Are you writing for corporate leadership, nonprofit donors, or sports fans? You can speak to each of these audiences with authority, hope, and humor (respectively).
Tone is everything in copywriting. Good copy always evokes emotion, but rather than using fear to make a point, optimistic copywriting persuades with positivity. As the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” By the same token, you can catch more readers by demonstrating that you understand them and support their needs. If you’re speaking to an audience problem, consider what solutions, resources, and expertise you can offer. It’s nice to be nice—and it pays, too.
Understand connotations and denotations.
Context matters, so it’s worth contemplating connotation and denotation when building any sentence. Denotation refers to a word’s literal meaning, whereas connotation refers to the contextual and emotional meaning of words in relation to the other words around them. Writing without connotation in mind is a quick way to alienate your audience, who will interpret your copy based on their understanding of language–regardless of your intention.
For the sake of optimistic copywriting, put aside intention and prioritize impact. For example, let’s look at the word “cheap.” Cheap, by definition, means low-price, which denotatively, sounds positive, or at least neutral. But the connotations of “cheap” can be insulting. Even when looking to make a sale based on the competitive pricing of an item, “cheap” may not be the most optimistic word to choose.
Spin negative language into a positive.
Beyond the contextual meaning of words, there are some words that are negative on their own. Words like “but,” “never,” “no,” “hardly,” “nobody,” “scarcely,” and “hardly” are all negative words, yet they serve a useful purpose in communicating effectively. It’s not inherently wrong to use negative words, and sometimes negative words are the best way to communicate an idea. However, spinning a negative word into a positive form often sounds more powerful and inspiring.
Dodge negative words when you can, and instead look for opportunities to make your language more aspirational. This means choosing fun adjectives, and using positive helping verbs like “is,” “are,” “must,” “could,” “may,” “might,” and “can.” The difference is in the details, and readers can feel the difference between a sentence packed with “can” instead of “not.” Did you ever read the children’s classic, The Little Engine That Could? “I think I can” is how we get up the hill, and that applies to anything we write.
For example, instead of telling a potential client that their business is threatened, spin an offer with optimism by saying: “We’re here to protect your business.” Positive word choices are more specific, useful, and right to the point. They’re also more enjoyable to read.
A luxury catamaran fleet got a website upgrade
Picturing a luxury holiday in the Caribbean is easy. Writing about it is far harder. That’s exactly the challenge Nick and Nick Parker, owners of the Silver Moon catamaran fleet, faced before tapping MarketSmiths. Just as well they did: we soon brought their website to vivid life, helping readers touch and taste the treasures of Barbados all while sitting at their computers. By the time we were done, Nick and Nicky were thrilled with our work—and excited to welcome hundreds more holidaymakers to their corner of paradise.
Optimistic copywriting focuses on what’s good.
The great Mother Teresa once said, “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” Word choices matter. In fact, they make all the difference. We can’t hide from bad, sad, and discouraging news. But we can always make the choice to communicate with inclusivity, encouragement, and helpfulness. This means looking on the bright side of storytelling, and it also means offering positive learnings, forward-thinking calls to action, and, above all, hope for the future. With optimistic copywriting, the glass is always half-full.
At MarketSmiths, we value the importance of a human approach to copy. If you’d like to know more, get in touch.