Choosing the right register

in Top copywriting tips

At the weekend I was having a conversation with a nearly 90 year old relative. I hadn’t spoken to her for some time so we were filling each other in on our news. During the conversation I described my partner as being ‘a bit of a steam train buff’.

After the conversation had ended I found myself musing on the phrase ‘steam train buff’. It was a turn of phrase I wouldn’t normally use and I wondered why I had on this occasion. I realised I was simply doing what comes naturally to me as a copywriter: choosing my words according to my audience.

To look at it another way, if I’d been talking to a friend, I’d have said ‘he’s into trains’ (and probably rolled my eyes at the same time).

And to take the same thing into a professional sphere it’s what I’m doing as part of a project to rewrite some web content. The brief comments: ‘At the moment, the copy sounds like it was written to appeal to young mothers but we need you to write it so it appeals to our target market of people in their late middle age.’

Choosing the right tone of voice is the professional copywriter’s equivalent of choosing the right register that we were all taught about at school. That is, you use different language and different sentence constructions depending on who you’re talking to. Teacher or friend. Adult or child. Someone you know or someone you don’t. And so on. When copywriters write, they’re thinking in great detail about who it is they’re talking to and choosing their language appropriately so their copy will have maximum appeal and maximum effectiveness.

If you’d like to find out more about writing copy with the maximum appeal and maximum effectiveness, you can sign up for my five day series on writing better marketing materials. (And to whet your appetite, day one looks at how to choose your register.)

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