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What Writing Style for Your Marketing Piece?

Read a thriller novel and the style is fast-paced and loaded with action. Cozy up with a romance and you're spellbound by a budding relationship that struggles to grow and blossom. Review an academic paper and you expect to find an intelligent argument based on solid research and analytical thinking.

Every writing genre has its own style, and marketing writing is no different.

Which style works best in marketing communications? There are a lot of conflicting opinions.

Some writers insist that marketing copy should reach out and grab the reader by the shirt collar and then, with Ginsu knife precision, overpower him or her with hard-selling words and phrases. Others balk at this approach, saying that great copywriting is really about being creative. (Catchy slogans, anyone?) There are still others -- especially in the business-to-business sector -- who claim that copy should be formal and business-like, so the reader will be impressed.

Hmm. So what's the truth? Yes, copywriting should be attention-grabbing, informative, creative and employ the elements that are effective salesmanship. But that doesn't mean the style needs to be aggressive, clever or formal.

The ideal writing style for any marketing piece is one that the target audience will respond to best. And how do you figure that out?

Read what your reader reads!

Every professional, business and special interest group, from plumbers to high school students to middle-aged tennis enthusiasts, has publications dedicated to their needs and interests. If you want to write copy that persuades retired travelers, for example, then 50+ Travel is a magazine you should review.

Study the magazines, e-zines, journals, Web sites and blogs that your target audience is reading. Then use a similar style in your marketing copy.

It's that easy.

Say you're creating an email promotion or Web page aimed at IT professionals. Scan a few of the publications and Web sites popular with this audience and you'll discover writing that is in-depth, explanatory and loaded with technical specifics. People in the IT professions prefer solid information delivered clearly and accurately, with minimal use of expressive prose.

But you can't use that same writing style in an email to computer-game-loving teenagers! Study a few of the blogs and Web sites that cater to that audience and you'll learn that the style of your marketing copy needs to be adventurous, fast-paced and fun.

"But wait a minute," you might be asking. "I've got to write a Web page by noon today! I don't have time to read every publication my target audience reads."

The good news is, you don't have to. It really doesn't take long to get a sense of the writing style you need to emulate in your marketing piece. Often, all that's required is to browse a couple of key publications and read a few paragraphs here and there.

Here's my favorite technique. Read the "Letter from the Editor" section featured in most magazines, and even some e-zines and Web sites. Generally, editors know how to speak to their readers in a style and language that works best.

So, as you can see, the title of this article is misleading. You don't need to select which writing style will work best in a marketing piece. Your target audience has already done that for you. Just read what they read to find out!


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Steve Slaunwhite is a marketing consultant, award-winning copywriter, and author of The Everything Guide to Writing Copy. He works with professionals who need better results from their websites, e-mails, sales letters, ads, and other marketing communications. He is also the editor of www.ForCopywritersOnly.com. His professional home on the Web is www.SteveSlaunwhite.com. Click here to read more articles by Steve Slaunwhite.

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Comments from our users:

Monday January 28th 2008, 12:53 PM
Comment by: Charlotte H.
So, what does the luxury consumer like to read? Interesting how simple this makes marketing copy! I shall give it a whirl...
Tuesday April 15th 2008, 11:12 AM
Comment by: james H.
Clarifies the need for different writing sytles/approaches required for different endeavors.

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