Humanizing copywriting

I’m on a constant quest to stop people from talking like they think marketers are supposed to talk.  Many others have done more than I to highlight the perils of biz-blab, gobbledygook, and buzzwords.  But it’s easy to tell people what they’re doing wrong.  Can you catch people doing what’s right?  And what is right, anyways?

In my mind, it’s not enough to write copy that’s clear.  It needs more than clarity… it needs excitement.  Pull.  Something to hook your audience emotionally and bring them into your pitch.

Recently I’ve come across more than a few newsletters and email pieces that did a great job of sounding like a human, not a marketer.  For instance, this one from

Just wanted to check in and see what’s going on with your various swag needs. […] We’ve added a TON of new stuff. And I’d say only about 10% of it is total crap. I mean, it can’t ALL be great – I make my living selling pens and mugs after all… But man, that other 90%. I’ve spent a lot of time drinking and reading gadget blogs (in that order) and I’ve found some killer stuff.   Anyways, if you haven’t looked in awhile you’re missing out. You’d be like that one quiet girl in junior high that never saw Star Wars because her parents thought the way it portrayed women was degrading. So please go on there and buy something. Right now. It will save you (and by extension your company) from being square, and it will save me from selling dog Tshirts for the rest of my life. (that really is a product on there – and I’ll send you a free one if you can find it).

My coworkers and I were laughing as we read this and quickly forwarded it around to everyone in the marketing department.  It tapped right into the “tchotchkes are crap” problem that all marketers face if they are looking for cheap promotional items.  All of us at least clicked through to look at the site to see more.

Here’s another tidbit wedged into a longer newsletter.  It’s a throwaway wink-and-a-nudge line that immediately puts you on the same side:

The Boomerang Elite Data Scientists (us, plus an $8 bottle of Cabernet) released our first Infographic last week! It provides some surprising insights about email that we learned from Boomerang and The Email Game over the past couple years.

The king of this are the folks at, who really know their audience too well.  Their website, their emails, the printed catalogs they now send… all embody a playful tone that speaks to their audience.

Engineers don’t have many occasions to write copy, unless they cross over to the Dark Side of  marketing.  But you’d be surprised how many things an engineer is responsible for writing that works its way to customers, users, or the general public.  The next time you’re authoring those release notes, think about tone and audience, and don’t be afraid to show the world a sneak peek at the human author behind the writing.


About Jeff Foley

Jeff Foley is the Director of Product Marketing for Customer Service Applications at Pegasystems. Jeff started his career as an engineer at Dragon Systems, before moving over to “the Dark Side” of marketing as the product manager for Dragon NaturallySpeaking v5. Throughout product launches at enterprise and consumer companies like Dragon, edocs, Atari, Nuance, Bullhorn, and now Pega, Jeff has aligned sales, marketing, and product organizations around new technologies to deliver software his customers love to use. Jeff holds BS and MEng degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT.
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One Response to Humanizing copywriting

  1. Newsletters and email pitches are perfect for this type of casual style. I love your blog, btw!

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