rhetorical questions

Writing for the Voice

Posted By Copywriting Dept on 03-Feb-12 09:39

It’s not something I would usually admit to, but when you walk into our copywriting department on a regular afternoon, you’ll often find us talking to ourselves. Yes, you read that correctly, not talking to each other, but talking to ourselves. It’s not that we’re all maladjusted, or that we prefer our own company to that of our fellow copywriters, it’s simply this: when writing for the voice, the best way to read it, is out loud. In fact there a few ways that writing for the voice is different to writing for the page – as I’m sure any playwright, speech writer or script writer will tell you, and that’s what I thought I’d talk about today.

In a drama class I took at University our tutor gave us some interesting advice on how to write dialogue. He actually told us to carry around a voice recorder and record all our friends’ conversations. It was meant to show us how real conversation works so we could apply it to script writing. I decided not to record all my conversations in a bid to not weird out my friends too much, which seemed to be for the best, because since then I’ve learn some much simpler and less intrusive ways to tweak your words for the tongue.

The main thing is the tone. A more casual tone will make your messages sound conversational – so callers feel like they’re listening to a person they can engage with, not just a recorded robot. Now how do you achieve that tone? Obviously some of it comes down to the Voice Talent and how they read it out, but we’re talking about the words, so here are some things we do when writing scripts to make it sound more conversational before the Voice Talent even sees it.

Choice of Words: Choose words that are more casual, avoid industry jargon (unless you would actually use it in a conversation with your customers), and by all means, use colloquial language – the kind of words and phrases you’d never be allowed to put in an essay or research paper but would always use in everyday life.

Ask Questions: We use actual and rhetorical questions all the time in conversations, and it helps the other person feel engaged, why not use it?

Use the First Person: Referring to your company as a thing that the message is talking about puts distance between you and the caller. But if you use ‘we’ and ‘our’ and ‘you’ the caller feels like they are being engaged in conversation with a person, not just listening to someone talking about the company.

Use Contractions: We ‘don’t’ usually say ‘do not’ unless we’re really emphasising a point, also ‘you’ll’ probably notice you say ‘we’re’ rather than ‘we are’ when you’re (you are) speaking to someone.

Most of us are trained to avoid all these things when writing for the page (in essays, reports, newsletters, etc), however when writing for the voice we embrace them, and so should you!

– Rachel Inglis