Before You Write ANYTHING Ever Again, Read This

There are countless books and articles instructing how to write. One of my favourites is Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. It was published in 1923 as a guide on sales writing, and it’s as relevant today as it’s ever been.

Decades of research has gone into its findings and that’s what makes it so important. Great writing is scientific. It’s not based on opinion. Or hearsay. Or personal desires.

It’s based on fact. 

Now, life’s shifted a little since 1923. But there’s no sector more fitting to the term Time is Money than recruitment. If you spend time writing words, you’re spending money. You need to know that money’s worth the investment.

Here are some tips to making your writing worth the money.

Whether it’s a job ad. An email. A sales pitch. An advert for your business. A social update invoking chit chat. Anything.

1) Everyone’s NOT your audience

If you’re looking for a Software Engineer, you already know, 100% of your audience on LinkedIn don’t fit that mould. It’s a fair estimate to say probably 10% of the people who see your ad will be appropriate readers.

So write to them.

No one else. And further than that, just write to the one person you hope reads it.

Imagine them. Think about them as a friend. You’re excited to talk to them and you use colloquial language, ’cause that’s what you do with friends, right? Think about sitting down in a pub, with a pint, and talking candidly.

That’s the exact tone your writing needs to take. Every single time.

2) Write from YOU

The very best writers don’t talk in a collective form. They don’t say ‘we’. They don’t say ‘ours’.

They say ‘I’ and ‘mine’.

There’s less personality in a company or group statement. You’re less exposed.

Always write from one person, to another. It’s the most simple form of communication and will stick in the reader’s mind longer.

3) Read it out loud

The more you write, the more you’ll hear yourself reading along while doing so. Perfecting this strategy will help your tone of voice. But it’s also very easy to miss words you think you’ve typed.

Read everything you write out loud.

Ideally to someone else. Your intonation comes from punctuation. So avoid long sentences and if your writing sounds like someone’s written it, re-write it.


4) Tell someone a secret

Listen, you’re the only person I’ve told this to, so please don’t pass it on, but… people like secrets.

Sharing them is a very powerful tool in writing.

Tell them to people in your close-knit group, but only them. You trust them. They trust you. It’s a circle of trust, and not everyone’s invited.

5) Use your senses

When you’re watching a shit film, it doesn’t take long to realise you’re not interested and turn it off.

It doesn’t engage. You don’t feel connected. It hasn’t played on any senses. Be that anger. Sadness. Disgust. Joy. Surprise. Anticipation. Envy. Love.

It’s bereft.

You need to toy with these emotions when writing. Use analogies. Metaphors. Paradoxes. Similes. Onomatopoeia. Personification.

THWHACK them in the throat with emotion!

For better or worse, they’ll read to the end. They’ll use their entire brain and not start channel flicking.

6) Ask them to remember things

Remember when I told you a secret earlier? That was important.

Because by asking your reader to do things, you start a fire in them. They’re reading your writing in the frame of their own life. And now, you’re part of that life.

You’ve asked them a direct request. If they do it, you’ve broken a wall of consciousness.

7) Ask them to imagine

Imagine if everything you ever wrote was loved.

That’d be amazing, wouldn’t it? Your job ads got the perfect application, every time. Your sales emails were followed by your phone ringing. Your website copy was talked about online, by people who didn’t know you.

That can happen, if you ask people to imagine.

Imagination means people start living in the world you create for them. Never underestimate that.

8) Get angry, stupid

One of the writers for Hunted, Mr Ed Hunter, writes a column called You Know What Really Twists My Tail. If you’re not familiar, here’s another secret, it’s gold. Check it out on LinkedIn.

What he does is share a common annoyance. He’s on your side. The side of the recruiter. We’re all in this together. It’s us and them.

Ed Hunter gets recruiters. Which means he gets you.

By replicating this you can have the same commonality with your audience.

9) Be funny

More breaking through to the physical realm here, and again something the wolf’s better at than I.

Make someone laugh.

I regularly hear Jen in our office laugh. She sounds a little like Scooby Doo and it makes us all laugh.

Our response is: What you laughin’ at?

If the answer is something written, you’ve gone above the reader’s head. You’re now in the physical world, not just on their screen. Laughing’s contagious and happiness one of the most treasured emotions there is.

Use it.

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10) Don’t be formal

Look, it’s you, so I’m willing to be candid in the way I write.

I don’t need to dress my language up. I can use slang, and shit… the occasional expletive doesn’t harm anyone. But, that’s only ’cause I trust you.

You need to trust your reader too. You’re not writing a legal document, so don’t be rigid. Use contractions wherever possible. Delete almost any use of the word ‘that’.

Trust them with your language, and they’ll start trusting you, without even realising.

11) Show humility

Never start a post with ‘feeling truly humbled’ because it’s the least f*cking humble thing going.

But if you’re writing as an authority on something, it pays to become one of the people occasionally.

Let’s say you write a social post looking for your next job. Why not write two posts? One asking for advice on the best people to speak to. And another where it would be sheer madness not to interview you.

One’s discussion, asking for a favour from people like you.

The other’s an ad.

Both will be seen by the same people.

Showing yourself to be a real person is self-deprecating. And unless you’re one of the new recruitment robots coming to take our jobs, clothes and motorcycles, you are a real person.

12) Get a routine

If you write enough, you’ll have certain tools and tricks of the trade you can rely on.

It might be a catchphrase, like ‘You know what really twists my tail’. It might be a hashtag? People can search and know you’re waiting for them. Maybe it’s a character or something as wide as a subject.

It could even be a state of mind.

If anyone tags Mitch Sullivan on LinkedIn, you can guess he might swear. He’ll probably be honest. And he’ll probably not be affected by who’s in the discussion. The subject’s the important part, not the poster.

These are trademarks, and the man who owns them is one of the best writers out there. It makes readers feel comfortable, even if what he says doesn’t.

That’s an impressive tool. And the cosy nature of familiarity means others can pick up the baton, and carry it forward.

The best thing you can do for yourself, is study the language you speak. Because if you know how to speak, you can write. There really is no difference.

Learning about great writing unlocks potential.

It makes friends of enemies and clients of friends.

Stick to the above and you won’t be far short of inspiring your readers.