Writing style is kind of like a Tamagotchi, if you nourish it and spend time with it, you’ll see it develop into a beautiful creature! But if you neglect the tiny animal, it’ll shit everywhere and die.
Ok, maybe the Tamagotchi metaphor needs some work, but you get what I mean. Developing your writing style is all about time and effort. Putting in the hours to be better at what you do.
Your writing style is the way in which you present ideas, not the ideas themselves.
The more you write, the easier it will be to identify which aspects of your writing work well in presenting your ideas, and which don’t. But there are many more techniques for developing your style than simple trial and error.
Here are my most used techniques for developing writing style:
Learn from the greats – Ogilvy, Bernbach, Halbert, Wells-Lawrence, whomever you admire and would like to write similarly to. Research them, read and critique their past campaigns. By researching their work you can learn in an afternoon, what may have taken years for them to discover.
I often find that writing out your favourite campaigns by hand a number of times can hard-wire your subconscious into making the same stylistic choices as the writers you idolise. So next time you see some copy that really draws you in and does it’s intended job, try writing it down like a naughty pupil in detention. Trust me, it’ll help!
Read your copy out loud – when writing your copy, be it for a social campaign, whitepaper, blog, whatever; read your copy out loud. You’ll pick up on sentences that don’t sound right more easily. Ask questions of your copy: Do the sentences flow? Does the cadence seem right when you’re speaking? Are you repeating a phrase too often?
It’s easier to spot these mistakes when they’re said out loud, because we process words differently when reading with the intent of speaking, compared to just reading. The reader will also read your copy with their little in-head reading voice. You know, the one that’s reading this article to you right now?
Read. – Read anything. Ads, novels, fiction, non-fiction, dinosaur books, TV scripts, the hungry hungry caterpillar (cracking read btw). The more you read, the better your grasp of the English language will become.
Reading lets you experience others’ writing the way your reader will experience yours, giving you greater perception as to how your message might be received. Which words and phrases draw you in and why?
Don’t lose your Different – It’s good to be unique! Don’t sacrifice your personal style in pursuit of a more “professional” way of writing. Unless you are working to a style guide or editorial handbook, you can flex your creative muscles when it comes to style. Put what you’ve learned to the test and experiment.
If you’ve put the time into researching and practicing, you will already have the beginning of a nuanced style that portrays, not only the ideas you wish to portray, but a little of your personality and zest too.
Practice, Practice, Practice – Nothing trumps practice. If you put in your 10,000 hours your’ll see results. It’s as simple as that. Try creating mock briefs and writing copy for them. Rework copy on existing ads if you think you can improve them. If you notice a gap in literature, a topic that nobody is talking about, fill the gap.
It might seem excessive, but I believe that aiming to practice everyday is key to developing your style and becoming the best writer you can be.