August 9, 2017
10 Easy-As-Pie Punchups for Warmer, Funnier, More Personable Copy
We all have THAT friend. The one who effortlessly charms new pals the moment they meet her. Who cracks jokes that make everyone laugh. Who makes you feel like you’re part of a secret club just for knowing her. She’s radiant, game for anything, and also happens to be a great cook and did we mention she’s not only super-organized, but DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS?
You know the one.
**It can be tempting to resent that friend. ** To think, “I’ll never come off that way. She’s just got something I don’t.” **And it can be tempting to think the same thing about your marketing copy. **You’ve probably had at least one day where you slammed your laptop closed, huffed like the Big Bad Wolf, and said, “F#$% it. I can’t write engaging, funny, warm copy. It just doesn’t come naturally to me.”
Why would you even WANT to write funny?
Maybe you want your writing to be funnier because you know that humor is a shortcut to the Holy Grail of marketing: trust. Maybe you’re just trying to mix it up a little bit, because you’re tired of sounding like every other ho-hum copywriter or content creator out there. But the idea of being funnier is hard for people who don’t feel
a constant need for validation like they’re naturally funny. And “be funny” is not an actionable piece of advice. Luckily, even if you’re as uptight as Anna Wintour in a whalebone corset, you can still come off as fun, warm, and personable in your copy. **You just need a little guidance. **Sentence-level hacks. And that, my sweet friends, is what I’m here to give you.
How to fake being funny on paper
Here’s a little secret that I’ve only shared with my cats: You can write like you normally do, and then go back and edit in humor and personality. _record scratch_ Wiggity wiggity whaaat? YES. IT IS POSSIBLE. **Small, sentence-level changes to your writing can add up to a totally new voice. **Then you can take full advantage of humor’s effects on your audience. Here’s how this will go: I’ll show you 10 sentence-level punchup techniques I personally use, explain WHY I use them, and tell you WHEN it’s appropriate (and not) to use each technique in your copy. Two caveats before we dive in:
- Know your audience. Don’t go whole-hog with humor and_ then_ discover your market is actually comprised of 100% tired, angry high-school principals.
- _Prepare to chill out._ These techniques require a little laxity with syntax, punctuation, all that good nerdy stuff. So this approach probably won’t appeal to strict grammarians. (But honestly, I used to BE a grammarian — and then I loosened up. I feel better now.) ;)
Punchup #1: Write words in ALL CAPS
You wouldn’t deliver a speech in a flat monotone at a steady volume, right? You’d find a dynamic range between soft and loud, high-pitched and low. You can do the same by working caps into your writing here and there. **On most of the internet, writing in all caps indicates yelling or emphasis. ** So anywhere you’re feeling ferocious in your copy, write a couple of those words in caps! DO IT! TRY IT AT LEAST ONCE! See what I did there? Tip: Anywhere you decide to use all caps, use them judiciously. I like to avoid capitalizing whole sentences, and stick to a few key words. Like I did with this subject line in an email to my list, which got a 66.2% open rate:
I am fairly screamy, yes.
- **Best place to use CAPS: **Emails (both subject lines and body copy), personal social media, anywhere that feels like a one-on-one connection.
- **Worst place to use CAPS: **New client proposals (YMMV). Also SMS or MMS marketing messages — since those are usually already too close to feeling spammy and invasive.
Punchup #2: Punctuate “incorrectly” or include a typo (pick one)
Yes, this copywriter is telling you to intentionally make “mistakes”. Because mistakes are inextricably woven into the way people communicate, they help you appear more human, and thus more trustworthy. In certain contexts, they also help you appear like you just dashed off your latest marketing message, then sashayed away into the sunset — instead of what actually happened (AKA you hunched over that marketing message way ahead of time. Wrote it. Revised it. Scheduled it). One of my personal favorite ways to punctuate “incorrectly”? Asterisks.
Plus, language is fluid. Keeping current with how the youth are currently punctuating helps you look more like a culturally knowledgeable, likeable Young than a stodgy, irritable Old. Here’s Mark Littlewood of Business of Software flaunting his hipness in an intentionally misspelled subject line: Now, I don’t advocate intentional typos more than once every EXTREMELY blue moon, because you have to demonstrate competence, too. One study found that _typos in email body copy amplified the perceived emotion_ of that body copy — so angry emails came across as angrier, and happy emails came across as even more joyful. However, the same study also found that while typos make you seem authentic (duh), they also decrease the perception of your intelligence (double duh). And while I’ve personally had success with lowercased (AKA “incorrect”) subject lines, and Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers and Airstory has experimented with them, Boomerang notes that emails with a lowercase subject line receive 13% fewer responses. **So consider whether you’re looking for ****responses ****or *opens*, and **tread carefully.
- Best place to punctuate incorrectly: Tweets, blog posts, and emails
- **Worst place to punctuate incorrectly: **One-on-one emails and when you need to make a sale
- Best place to try a small typo: Email subject line (It might actually boost your open rates)
- Worst place to try a small typo: Everywhere else.
Punchup #3: Contract words and throw in some abbrevs ;)
Contractions and abbreviations work on the same principle as mistakes, above.
Chantelle: Please entire internet read this article and IMPLEMENT. Down with boring marketing speak! Thanks, Lianna. I’m all about the GIFs, there is never a bad time for a good GIF.
Justin Blackman: I want to share this post with the world and pretend that I wrote it. Cool? OK, maybe just the first part then…
KasiaKramnik: OMG. The tips you listed aren’t funny at all. I have no idea how a typo, abbreviations, comic book vocabulary or all caps can appear warm to the reader. To me, they sound cheesy, pretentious and, as I call it, marketing-ish. Such cheap tricks discourage me from reading.