Whether we concentrate on internal writing or external, our voice needs to be balanced. There may be times we write with our own voice and it’s obvious to our audience when we are “speaking.” But if we write to represent the company or someone else, we have to be careful we don’t sound like ourselves. Mastering the art of voice variation takes time and a lot of practice.
Wonder how to do it? What elements are needed to write with the correct voice? And is there a difference between copywriting versus copyediting?
Finding the “voice”
Writers always hear (or read) reminders about finding one’s voice in his or her writing. And that is something that takes time to develop. You have to keep writing; keep trying new things to discover what you’re comfortable with and what kind of voice will be your signature style.
When writing for corporations and executives, that voice is not yours. You heard me – it is not about you.
Copywriters have to take on the distinct style of their clients. Companies have their own voice, or language. They even have their own vocabulary at times. They also have what is known as “internal speak.” In other words, they use words and phrases that are distinct for their business. As well, rules of basic grammar might be tossed out the window in favor of remaining politically correct in a diverse world.
As writers, our reaction tends to be to want to “fix” everything that’s wrong in the English language. We read a document from an executive we are asked to edit, and if we are not careful, we could take the extreme and rewrite it in such a way that they become our words, even if they are not supposed to be.
When writing for a business, we do not have the luxury of making mistakes or trying new styles simply to find the client’s “voice.” Skilled copywriters take on the challenge of becoming the voice of the client almost overnight (it takes a little longer, but you get the idea). When the client’s signature ends up on the written document, that document has to sound exactly as if the client wrote it himself.
Copywriting vs. Copyediting
Copywriting is the act of writing copy. As copywriters, we use our talents to create copy that sells, informs or persuades. We might, at times, be given free reign to use our own voice or style, which will work for that particular project.
But the rest of the time when writing copy, we will be ghostwriting, or speaking for the client. We have to make sure that copy represents who our client is and his company.
Copyediting is the act of editing copy. Good editors do not rewrite the copy. We find the errors (not just spelling, punctuation and grammar – that’s a proofreader), which can include lack of flow, disjointed thoughts or factual misconceptions. We might move sentences around or suggest other ideas so that the true author of the document is able to explain clearly what he means. Throughout the editing process, the editor makes sure to keep the author’s intended thoughts and words, even if to us, as writers, we would write it differently.
This might sound simple, but it is not always. For example, engineers write in technical terms. They see things in facts and figures and cannot always translate this into creative text. At times, it seems they do not write in English. Our tendency as writers is to make the writing clear and plain to the general public. But an editor has to consider this:
Who is the intended audience? If it is other engineers, the language will be clear to them. If it is not for other engineers, then the writing will have to be in terms a non-engineer will understand.
Is the document for internal or external purposes? Most within the company will understand the internal language. The writing will likely be clear to them, but if they are not engineers, then a bit of explanation will be necessary. If writing for the general public, the language will need to be translated in such a way others understand the point. If writing B2B (business to business), a little balance will be needed, but overall, the other business will probably understand the language.
Connecting readers to the author
All of this is much like a ghostwriting book project for an author. The elements remain the same. You, as the writer, do not write in your voice, but in the voice of the author. Your role is to form the author’s thoughts into a comprehensive story that will keep readers engaged. The author may not think like you or use your polished language, but it does not matter – it is not about you. The idea is that the reader feels connected to the author. And if the reader knows the author intimately, he should not notice any flaws in the writing as if he were talking with someone he did not know.
Throughout the process, however, we still present quality copy. The corporations, executives and authors come to us because they need a professional writer to take their ideas and form them into words. The copy is comprehensive and persuasive, both in selling the idea (or product) and selling the author’s voice.
Writing fantastic copy with a balanced voice is a true art.
Writers find their own voice on their own time. Copywriters push their voices aside and become, in a sense, ventriloquists. They become well versed in their clients’ company and expectations, and can help to execute both believable and convincing copy.
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