Hello there, mate! Heya! Howdy, Y’all! Hello again, friends! Ughhh… Why is this so hard? Type these and ten dozen more variations, and you might still not find THE ONE that sounds just right. Why’s the Universe making it so difficult to just write down your emails and be done?
I feel your pain. I know the struggle. I’ve had my share of days when I felt like throwing the computer out the window.
Like the optimist you know me to be, I’ve decided to turn that writer’s block induced anger into this little post. I’ll go through everything you need to know to write good, fun emails people will want to open, read and click the hell out of, so props to you for stopping by this corner of the Internet on your way to puppy photos and contouring videos. It will be worth your time!
So, let’s start with something to get you to chillax about what’s next:
Why Are They Saying to Write as You Speak?
Let’s do a little detour. The world of branding works with brand archetypes. Each brand has a human-like personality, with dominant traits that can be placed in different boxes (archetypes).
Unlike a shampoo or chocolate brand, you don’t need a brand strategist to decide what your personality should be. You’ve been building your personality since the day you were born. People, unlike brands, are awesome like that, haha. You can, of course, tweak bits of your online persona to boost your personal brand, but writing emails as you speak is the simplest way to sound the way it makes sense for you to sound. I mean, think about it… If Gordon Ramsey would start his emails with “Yo, bro!” and end them with “are you feelin’ me?”, people would think he hit his head or something.
Why Your Writing Style Matters
What makes things a bit trickier is that writing as you speak isn’t always enough to get the job done when you need to persuade your readers. This is where style comes into play.
Think of style as the way your writing clarifies who is the person writing to those reading the text. What is the relationship between the one doing the writing and those doing the reading? Are they friends? Are they on different authority levels?
Let’s look no further than this article you’re reading. I wrote “props to you for stopping by this corner of the Internet on your way to puppy photos and contouring videos”. So, “props to you” isn’t formal writing, so I know my text will be read by friends, people I think are my peers and not by the bank loan officer. I continue with “on your way to puppy photos and contouring videos” which can be interpreted as dismissive (you, the reader, don’t use the internet for important things) or as an inside joke (you, the reader, as the rest of us here, on this very page, already know that people are joking about the internet being filled with cute puppies and contouring tutorials). Of course, the second applies here.
If I were to write to someone who isn’t in on the contouring jokes, they might either feel insulted or just wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about. I know you are in on the joke. Contouring tutorials are so mainstream that even The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah is joking about them in his end-of-video message to YouTube viewers.
So, before you even start typing, ask yourself the following questions to determine what would the most impactful style be:
#1 What is my relationship with those receiving my email?
Example: They’re people who read my blog every day or they’re people that subscribed to my list but never received a message from me before.
#2 How do I want them to perceive my message?
Example: See it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a great deal or a friendly announcement.
#3 What can I assume my audience already knows?
Example: They know I’m about to launch a new product or they’re up to speed with what my new product does and just wait for sale to finally start.
#4 What are they hoping to receive?
Example: If I promised to send them something in particular with my newest email, I should deliver on that.
#5 To whose messages might they compare mine to?
Example: Are they newbies in the IM world or they’re on everybody’s lists? Will they know if I’m using a swipe file?
#6 What do I want them to think and feel while reading my email?
Example: Think that they’re getting a great deal and feel happy that they’ll save a lot of money thanks to the early bird offer.
#7 What do I want them to do when they finished reading my email?
Example: Order the product or share my email with a friend.
#8 How can I incentivize them to act as I’d like them to?
Example: I’ll offer an extra 5% discount to anyone ordering in less than 24H.
#9 What phrases do I want them to remember from my email?
Example: Product benefits or testimonials.
#10 What words do I want them to use to describe my email?
Example: Fun, serious, energising, inspiring.
It’s OK to not have all the answers. It’s sufficient to go through all the questions and have them running in the back of your head like a computer script. By doing so, when you’ll actually start writing, you’ll have this subconscient brief guiding you.
When writing your emails, your voice, and thus style, is basically made up of your choice for the language + tone combination.
The used language can be: simple, complex, fun, serious, playful, pretentious.
The used tone can be: personal, direct, confident, humble, skeptic, optimistic.
When you’re writing as you talk, this is usually an subconscient choice. If you want to be more persuasive than usual (think of a confession or a rant on your blog vs. selling your new product to your email list), you need to pay more attention to your choice or words.
The Start Writing Hack the Best Marketers Use
If you’ve read so far and you’re a bit concerned that I’m not addressing the elephant in the room – actually getting any writing done – don’t be. I mean, you’re special, but not that special that you’re the only person in the world procrastinating. Procrastination is so common that some of us don’t even realise we’re doing it. After all, procrastination manifests in many ways:
– looking for the perfect font for two hours,
– searching how others wrote similar emails for another two,
– looking for a better spell checker for yet another hour,
– redesigning a perfectly fine email template for two more hours.
So here’s how to get the actual writing done, and this is something the brilliant Mark Levy, writer of “Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content” swears by:
Just start typing for 10 minutes with zero f***s given about correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Set your timer and start typing as fast as you can about whatever subject is important to you or about nothing at all. Type absolutely everything that passes through your head.
This is what’s called freewriting, and Levy says it kinda freaks out your internal editor, who can’t keep up with all the content volume and just gives up. And because this thinking-break-system we have is short-circuited like that, we’re able to access ideas we didn’t know we had, come up with powerful messages, describe concepts and situations more naturally, discover our authentic self.
Freewriting will help you start typing and get your creative juices flowing, getting you in the right mood to write your emails no matter how much you dread the task.
Write Drunk, Edit Sober
Don’t take this literally (LOL), but do know that many famous authors are attributed a quote saying something along the lines of “sorry for the long letter, I didn’t have the time to write a shorter one” and that’s something everyone editing articles, ad copy, product pages etc. can relate to because it’s so, so true. Editing takes time, because it takes the MEHs and turns them into WOWs.
The way your first version of the text sounds like doesn’t matter. What the final, edited version sounds like matters. The editing process is where the magic happens, that’s where you treat sentences like puzzle pieces and you start rearranging them into something better.
Here’s an example of editing in action from a popular print article called “How to Write a Business Letter”, written in the ‘80s by Malcolm Forbes (yes, as in the FORBES magazine).
The same goes for swipe files. Don’t just delete something to fill in something else. Treat a swipe file as your first version of the email, edit it to make it better, to sound as if you wrote it.
A simple way to figure out what doesn’t sound like you, what’s not in tune with your style is to read it out loud. You’ll head all the phrases that you’d never use, and they’ll feel super strange. Replace them with phrases you have actually used in the past and repeat the reading out loud process, you’ll see a big change.
If you only have a few minute to edit the swipe files, make sure you at least change the salutation, the first paragraphs and the ending. That’s where most people would notice that something doesn’t sound right, because that’s where most of the relationship between the reader and the writer gets interpreted.
The No-So-Secret-Secret to Finding Your Voice
No matter how many resources you have available, the most important aspect of writing great emails that people are excited to receive is to imagine you’re writing to just one of them. You wouldn’t call Charlie from North Carolina “dear subscribers”. Write as if you’re writing to an old friend, and pick a different person each time to send a new email. You’ll get to shift your point of view a bit, and that will help you sound more authentic, and deliver better emails.
Remember that you’re putting in so your readers won’t have to, trying to decipher what you meant to say and what you’re expecting from them.