Once More With Feeling:
Has Your Writing Got Soul?


How do people feel when they read your writing?

Do you think that is even a relevant question to ask?

I was ordering some more of the wonderful MiniCards from Moo.com. You might have seen them, they are brilliant, tiny business cards printed with your own pictures and text. While the entire experience is very cool, it was the copy that caught my attention.

Welcome to Moo, we print things from your stuff.

This phrase tells me these are people I would like to do business with. It made me smile.

How many times do you read website copy that friendly and honest? No “leveraging paradigms” here. You are not going to find a million-point mission statement, painfully crafted by some dreary committee and signed off by a gray-suited and grayer-haired chairman.

People want to deal with people.

Many of the traditional barriers in business are coming down. The old stuffy, sterile, forced, detached formal relationships are being replaced with more human, warm, touchy-feely, authentic interactions. More people are choosing to deal with human beings rather than faceless organizations. One to one on a mass scale.

It could be adding some warmth to your writing adds profits as well as good old warm and fuzzies.

You can spot writing with soul quite easily:

  • Humor – Not necessarily telling jokes but rather not taking themselves too seriously.
  • Stories – Personal experiences that are told in such a way that you believe this person actually exists.
  • Language – It might be pushing it too far to suggest street slang (not that I could even attempt to be “hip and down with the kids. Yo.”) but a touch of humanity instead of business-speak goes a long way.

What it comes down to is being human and addressing your audience as people. Just try it and observe the response. It might just make them, and you, smile.

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Reader Comments (23)

  1. says

    Simple copy, simple ideas, simple implementation and simply doing what you say is the hidden secret to success that most people miss.

    Great post and great examples.

  2. says

    Rather than trying to write so perfectly textbookish, the copy seems to have more soul when it is written in the same style (vernacular) as you’d speak.

  3. says

    The way Moo.com is communicating with their costumer is just outstanding. I love it!
    When you receive the order confirmation by email you speak to “Little Moo”.
    Little Moo is saying he’s a”bit of software that will be managing your order with us. It will shortly be sent to Big MOO, our print machine who will print it for you in the next few days. I’ll let you know when it’s done and on its way to you.”


  4. Paulette says

    Surely you aren’t suggesting that grey-haired chairmen are not people … that would be ageist, don’t you think?

    And can you give a description of how a faceless organization interacts with humans? This to me is a very interesting, if hard to imagine, visual.

  5. says

    Funny, I saw a woman walking down the street earlier today with a t-shirt that said “I’ve got soul”. It made me smile. It also made me think about what the t-shirt said about her: that she loves music,that she loves life, that she’s a bit unconventional, that feeling alive is important to her.

    How do we translate that feeling into writing? Smile as you write maybe. Think about your readers – or maybe just one reader (that often works for me). Focus on your intention rather than your words – to communicate, to inspire, to comfort, to explain, whatever, let the intention drive what you write.


  6. Jen / domestika says

    Another fine instance of “teaching by example”… Authentic, indeed.

  7. says

    Too informal will work against you if it is out of tune with your audience, just as too formal tends to put off the majority of readers.

    Paulette I was suggesting that mission statements created by committee would produce something faceless and detached like “Efficiently whiteboard dynamic content without cross-unit channels. Distinctively implement plug-and-play manufactured products with open-source innovation. Proactively integrate goal-oriented paradigms before best-of-breed internal or “organic” sources. Energistically network multimedia based markets rather than diverse convergence. Enthusiastically implement wireless web services without standards compliant platforms. Globally embrace enterprise-wide ROI rather than cross-unit applications.”

  8. Paulette says

    I recognized what you were suggesting, Chris. But what you wrote suggested more, and are you sure it’s what you wanted to convey?

    I appreciate that reducing that litany of corporatese to visuals like “grey hair” and “faceless corporation” is a much more economical (and appealing) use of words.

    But it’s not particularly inspired, and helps to create a mindset that inherently insults, and thereby shuts out, a very wealthy demographic. (Not a wise thing for a copywriter to do, I wouldn’t think.)

    It might be wiser to be more thoughtful and inclusive in choosing metaphors rather than relying on shop-worn cliches. By doing so you also “lead by example” … which will only endear you to your readers more.

    Just a friendly suggestion from a gal who dyes her greying hair blonde. 😉

  9. Lisa says

    JetBlue’s site is friendly, too. When I booked a flight with them for the first time, I was actually smiling – I enjoyed being led through the process (and forking over my bucks) because it was obvious there were human beings behind the Web pages, people who had a sense of humor. What a refreshing change from wooden corpospeak.

  10. says

    Just a couple of questions. Will it be more “human” if blogs don’t overdo whatever schtick it uses in copywriting? Will that be better, at the expense of losing the blog’s personality?

  11. says

    I would say that “schtick” is uniquely human, but if your “schtick” feels like a schtick, it may not be the right schtick for you.

  12. says

    I absolutely love this post!

    Nowadays when there is so many sales pitch and marketing copy, adding some human touch is crucial.

    And I believe that companies that take into account customer’s personality, not only money, will benefit much in long term.

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