(Or how to avoid being eaten by zombies!)
Anyone can write, right? I’ll bet you’ve been doing it since you were about 5 years old. No-one needs to teach you how any more, do they? So when you’re composing that email, writing that blog or social media post, or planning that new landing page for your website, writing the actual words is like falling off a log isn’t it? Not something you need to expend too many brain cells on?
Yet how many of your target audience actually open that marketing email, like that social media post, or take a good long look at that blog or landing page? Could your marketing copy work a bit harder for you?
If you suspect you’ve been leaving your audience out in the cold, there’s a simple yet extremely powerful copywriting tip that I guarantee will make a world of difference to your open, engagement and click-through rates.
WARNING: Mini-grammar lesson coming up!
The secret to getting your reader’s attention is to write in an ACTIVE voice. An “active voice” is where the subject of the verb is doing the action. With the opposite – a “passive voice” – the subject has the action being done to them. One is much more powerful and persuasive than the other. OK grammar lesson over.
Here’s a couple of examples:-
ACTIVE voice: France beat Croatia in the final
PASSIVE voice: Croatia was beaten by France in the final
ACTIVE voice: You can install our software at any point in the process
PASSIVE voice: The software can be installed at any point in the process
An Active Voice gives your writing more power
You need to make your marketing copy as convincing as possible. Which means consciously using active voice. The difference is subtle yet powerful.
The trouble is that most of us use passive voice in speech without even realising it. Which means that it gets easily translated into passive written text. Which is also why professional copywriters like me take a long hard look at the first draft (and any subsequent drafts) of any copy we create to make sure we’re using active voice throughout – if its appropriate (academic or white papers being the obvious exceptions).
Using an active voice means you’re keeping your writing concise, which is the golden rule of good copywriting. It means you aren’t wasting words and you’re not being forced into using corporate gobbledy-gook. Which in turn means you’re making it easier for your audience to read and engage with your copy.
And if they’re not having to work to unpack your words to discover what your message is, they’re more likely to respond: open that email, click that link, like and share that Facebook post.
Easy isn’t it? Yet for most of us it’s still a struggle, simply because we’re too embedded in our organisations, our brands and our corporate messaging to be able to see the wood from the trees when it comes to creating great marketing copy.
So here’s a neat little trick.
Next time you write a sentence, do the “Zombie Test”. If you can add the words “by zombies” at the end of the sentence and it still makes perfect grammatical sense, then it’s passive. Sounds nuts?
Take look at one of our previous passive examples:-
The software can be installed at any point in the process by zombies
As a statement – albeit a bizarre one – it makes perfect grammatical sense. Yet if you try to insert “by zombies” into the active version:-
You can install our software at any point in the process
… it doesn’t work.
It’s a simple trick – and one you can have a lot of fun with! – but the simplest solutions are often the best ones. Using active voice in your marketing copy adds impact and makes it flow better, putting the emphasis in all the right places i.e. the subject of the verb – or the person doing the ‘thing’. It’s the most straightforward way to present your ideas because it creates a clear image in your reader’s mind about who is doing what.
And with that understanding, they’re more likely to want to look closer at your business.