It doesn’t matter if the plot is fascinating, the characters are funny and the overall message is uplifting. She can’t appreciate any of the good and finer points of the movie if the dialogue is chockfull of expletives.
She’s not an uptight prude. She does her own share of swearing. Mostly a “shit” or a “damn” here and there. I’ve never heard her drop an f-bomb, but maybe she does now and then. When she’s playing bridge with her lady friends on Wednesdays.
Now, me, I’m a fan of the f-word. It’s one of my favorites. And while I don’t use it all the time, and I try to be sensitive to those in my immediate vicinity before I let one fly, it’s still on my “Most Used and Appreciated Swear Words” list.
So, why can’t I bring myself to drop the f-bomb in my blog posts, copy or social media? If that word is part of my every day vocabulary, why don’t I use it when I’m communicating online?
Oh, I’ll use its weaker second cousins, like “effing” or “friggin’.” But I won’t use the actual word. At least, I haven’t yet.
And this makes me wonder… am I a copywriting hypocrite?
See, I’m always encouraging you and my clients to write like you speak (except more succinctly). Whether it’s your sales page or your website or a blog post, your copy and content should have that conversational tone that makes your reader feel as if you’re chatting with him or her over a cup of joe. This conversational tone makes your copy much more engaging, authentic and interesting.
Plus, when you write like you talk, your own distinctive writer’s voice begins to develop and shine.
So, if I’m supposed to write like I talk, shouldn’t I be dropping a few f-bombs now and then? Or am I too afraid to practice what I preach?
There are a lot of very popular and well-respected bloggers, business experts and even copywriters who drop f-bombs like crazy. Erika Napoletano (aka Redhead Writing). Ash Ambirge. And these fierce f-word flingers have huge tribes of loyal fans who adore them and hang on every one of their edgy expletives.
Part of their appeal, I feel, is that these foul-mouthed professionals don’t hold back or pretend to be someone they’re not. They let it all rip out onto the virtual page. Plus, they’re often funny, shocking and pretty darned entertaining. Unless you’re like my mom and you can’t appreciate their spicy humor because of their fondness for f-bombs.
But there’s another principle of copywriting to consider, in addition to the one that states you should write like you talk. And that principle is this: if you want to make an immediate connection with your reader or audience, you need to write in a language that is friendly and familiar to them. You need to use the words and phrases they use, every day. Because when you do, they can more easily and readily receive your message and be moved by it.
Now, it could be that the f-word IS a friendly and familiar word to you. You may use it all the time. Not just when an SUV cuts you off in traffic, or you drop a jar of mayonnaise on your toe.
But then again, you may not. Maybe, like my mom, some part of you contracts and pulls away when you hear or read the f-word. And I’m not willing to risk that.
These words here, on this blog or in my emails to you, they’re all I have when it comes to being with you. It’s not like we can meet at Starbucks this afternoon and discuss the meaning of life over a soy latte. And you may love language laced with colorful expletives. Like I do. But in case you don’t, I’ll keep those words to myself.
So, yes, I believe it is highly effective and engaging to write like you talk, and I’m a die-hard advocate for creative self-expression in all its odd and shocking forms. But if you want to wake people up, get their attention, or even stir up a little shit (ha!), do it with your ideas or your message. Don’t let the words you use get in the way of communicating those ideas and that message.
Now, what about you? How do you feel about using the f-word or any of its close associates in your copy or content?
How do you feel when you read those words in other people’s content?
Let me know by leaving a comment below. I’m curious.