Struggling with flat marketing copy or finding it hard to transition from academic writing? As someone who has written in both styles, I understand the challenge. In this post, we’ll explore the differences between academic and marketing writing, and I’ll share some tips on creating effective copy that connects with your audience. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or a student looking to improve their writing skills in preparation for a career in marketing, this post is for you!
It’s been two years since I’ve taken on an additional role, working as a lecturer in marketing in the higher education system. Over these past two years, I’ve worked with over 150 undergraduate and postgraduate students who study digital marketing, data analytics, and business management. In addition, through the digital marketing internship programmes at my companies, I’ve also mentored over 20 digital marketing interns and helped them transition from academia into business and marketing. I’m loving every second of teaching the next generation of marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs. Witnessing their growth brings me great joy.
Coming from a business background with very practical marketing knowledge and skills, each class I teach, each mentoring session I do, is a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on my own marketing strategies and practices. In other words: I’m learning as much as my students and mentees, no doubt!
Teaching is the highest form of understanding.
I decided to dedicate a series of blogs to some of my realisations and discoveries around academia vs business that I think are worth sharing. Let’s see where this takes us.
This very first blog in the series has to be dedicated to a topic I wrestle with every single day: academic writing vs copywriting.
Lost in Translation: The Disconnect between Academic Writing and Copywriting
Academic language and marketing copy serve two different purposes and audiences. Academic writing is often complex and uses specialised vocabulary to communicate ideas to a highly educated audience in a particular field.
On the other hand, marketing copy inspires and influences the target audience to take some kind of action, eg. read an article, make a purchase or sign up for an email list.
When you use clever academic language in marketing copy, it alienates the audience, confuses the message, and makes it difficult for people to understand why your product or service may be just the right solution for them. In other words:
Employing erudite academic vernacular in marketing copy ostracizes the audience, obfuscates the message, and renders it arduous for individuals to apprehend why your product or service may be the quintessential solution for their needs.
To be effective, marketing copy needs to be clear, concise, and easily digestible, using language that the target audience understands. When good copy truly resonates, the customer goes:
Omg, she’s in my head!
Finally, someone who gets what I struggle with.
This website feels like I’m looking into a mirror!
Thank god I found you!
Here’s my credit card, where do I pay?
One of the common reasons for trying to sound clever is fear. Fear of sounding stupid, fear of not doing it right. When this fear shows up in your copy, you sound stiff.
Stiff language has no place in marketing.
Don’t Write Copy Like You’re Writing a Thesis
So, what can we do to loosen up our writing when entering the world of marketing, leaving behind academic essays, reports and dissertations?
Here are just a few ideas and examples.
1. Yes, you can start a sentence with “and”, “but”, “or”.
And their brothers and sisters:
You’ll be glad you brushed up on your language skills. And so will your clients.
2. Yes, you can use sentence fragments.
“And so will your clients” above is a sentence fragment. “And their brothers and sisters” above is a sentence fragment. Here’s another example for a sentence fragment:
Why? Because being multilingual rocks, that’s why!
3. Say hello to slang – especially if your target audience is easy-going.
Slang is magic dust. It’s the spice of language:
You’ll be psyched that you’ve sharpened your language skills. And your clients? They’ll be blown away!
4. Yes, you can and should use contractions.
Contractions will make your writing instantly more relatable:
we will -> we’ll
you are -> you’re
do not -> don’t
From broken phrases to bilingual brilliance, we’ve got you covered.
5. Change passive voice to active voice, whenever possible
It will make your copy less formal and more conversational.
Your language skills will be elevated to the next level
We’ll elevate your language skills. So you can slay those conversations!
6. Say hello to the one-letter word: I. Yes, that’s you!
Academic writing is meant to be objective and impartial, focusing on the data and analysis rather than the personal opinions or experiences of the author. Therefore, students have to avoid first-person pronouns in order to present their ideas in a more authoritative manner, maintaining an objective and formal tone.
Forget that in marketing. If you’re marketing your own professional services or simply, you’re marketing yourself on the job market, you’re most welcome to use the word “I”.
Hello me! Long time no see.
There you have it, 6 tips that will help you loosen up your writing and allow you to connect with your audience, without alienating them.
Copywriting Secrets: Two Must-Listen Podcasts to Master Your Craft
I can’t finish this post without sharing two podcast conversations with my all-time-favourite copywriter friends.
Eloise Leeson on the power of words, why marketing on assumptions is dangerous and why active listening is the most underrated skill in marketing, ever:
Timea Kadar on why it’s especially difficult to write about ourselves, and how storytelling can help:
And someone whose posts you definitely want to follow on LinkedIn especially if you’re a non-native English speaker working in marketing, advertising and copywriting: Nick Anderson-Vines. He is an English coach for copywriters and the insights he shares through LinkedIn are simply enlightening.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any other copywriting hacks that can help to loosen up stiff, clever-sounding copy? Do share them in the comments below.
As always, thank you for reading.
PS: Want to meet? I’ll be here tonight:
Language Professionals’ Networking Event – April 2023
Location is on Zoom. Do come and join us for a great talk followed by a lively conversation. Connect with language professionals from around the world. We always have free tickets available.