Monday, May 21, 2012

For Writers

A few mornings ago I awoke with the beginnings of an essay whirling around in my sleep-fogged brain. The premise of the essay, miracles, came from a conversation I’d had with some friends a few days earlier and at the time I couldn’t articulate my true beliefs on the subject. But now, feeling zapped from on high, I dashed from my bed, hurried to the computer, coffee in hand, and tapped a few paragraphs out. Later when I re-read those paragraphs it hit me – they were BORING.

Deep down I knew that any publication I might want to sub this to would expect a certain tone – conversational, friendly, informal or inspiring; in fact just the kind of writing I love to do. So after my initial flurry of words I hunkered down and lowered my high-toned essay a peg or two in order to make it more reader friendly.   

If you’re like me you want to reach as many readers as possible and the best way to do it is with a tone that invites. More and more editors and publishers are seeing the wisdom in presenting information, personal experience, current events and even advertising in a way that will arrest their reader’s attention by using a certain tone. And that doesn’t mean a descent to the lowest common denominator by filling the page with oh’s, so’s and wells.

Instead they seek writing with words and phrases that might be used in conversation with a friend and this has great appeal on the page. The effect on the reader is that the words seem to have been written with exactly their circumstance in mind. I’ve even noticed this friendly conversational tone in ad copy, like this from a trendy catalog I recently got in the mail. It’s for a coral colored dress:

Ditch the dentist! Put a hold on housework. Groceries? Definitely maƱana. Once you unfurl this flutter of color in a breathtaking dress set you’ll think of far more interesting places to go.   

Now don’t you just want to rush out and buy two of those? Whoever wrote that little blurb used language that enticed me to take a second look at the dress. It might have begun, cancel your dentist appointment, but ditch the dentist! reads like something my girlfriend might say to me about a super sale going on at Kohls right now! Sure, I’d probably cancel my appointment, but ditching sounds so young and free, like the dress they want me to buy. The sale is in the words. 

Any time you find yourself in a friendly conversation with anyone, about anything, let yourself absorb the tone. Soon after make some detailed notes. Don’t be surprised if you wind up with a cartload of words and phrases to choose from when writing your next highly saleable article – on miracles maybe? 

Image: Free digital photos


  1. Jennifer Brown BanksMay 21, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Loved this! Definitely food for thought. :-)

  2. Thanks, Jen. I struggle with tone all the time. Glad 'Grandma Food' could help. =0)