Unraveling the Mystery of Copywriter’s Voice and Tone

“One of the keys to being a successful copywriter is to develop your own unique voice.”
Roberta Rosenberg
Circle of Success Instructor
Master B2B Copywriter

Will Newman

I disagree with Roberta. At least a little.

She says: “One of the keys to being a successful copywriter …”

I say developing your own, unique copywriter’s voice is the key.

Wait a minute. Anyone who’s read my copywriting articles knows that, for me, the most important secret of powerful, successful copywriting is “know your prospect.”

I haven’t changed my tune. You can’t write good copy without invoking this #1 Secret.

But after you get to know your prospect intimately, after doing tons of research to load your promotion with believable facts, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t write in a trustworthy, believable tone and voice.

Which brings the question:

What exactly are tone and voice?

Well, let me try to use one of my favorite copywriters as an example.

John Forde is one of the best — and most successful — copywriters around. While he could write for any niche, he concentrates primarily on financial.

John's copy frequently adopts the persona of a product guru. When he does, that person speaks in a way that feels genuine, personal, individual, and trustworthy.

This is what I call “small-v voice.” It’s the voice and style of the person who’s seemingly writing the sales letter. The guru in John's promos.

But regardless of the promo and the supposed letter writer, I can usually tell when John wrote the letter. His style, his choice of words, his pacing and delivery: These all work together to stamp the promo as uniquely John’s.

That’s John’s “Big-V Voice.”

Looking further at John as an example, here’s a definition that makes more sense:

Writer's voice is a literary term describing the individual writing style of a writer. Voice is a combination of a writer's use of syntax, words, punctuation, and structure. It’s like a specific fingerprint of a copywriter.

This is true of every good copywriter. They each have a specific copywriter’s voice. I can read promos by Clayton Makepeace, Jennifer Stevens, or Paul Hollingshead and know almost immediately who wrote it.

The second question that tags along with “what is voice” is …

How is voice different from tone?

Look at it this way. You have your own voice when you speak — a certain verbal style like you want to develop in your writing.

But I doubt you use the same tone when you’re complimenting a good friend versus when you’re trying to get a young child to stop misbehaving.

Difference in tone.

In copywriting, tone attaches to the small-v voice of the writer of the promotion. Let’s say you're writing alternative health copy in the voice of Dr. Martin Smith (using your personal Big-V Voice).

Normally, Dr. Smith, a kindly country doctor, speaks with a soft, soothing tone. In the current promo you’re writing, you and your client decide to have him adopt a different tone. This time he’s angry … really angry. He’s uncovered a problem with the FDA approval process that’s led to numerous deaths.

So the tone you use — still using Dr. Smith’s small-v voice and your unique copywriter’s Big-V Voice — is angry, determined, protective. And different than he usually uses.

How do you develop your unique copywriter’s voice? Simple answer … but not easy to follow. You develop your own unique copywriter’s voice by writing, writing, and writing even more.

And you hone that voice by editing, editing, always editing.

You find voice and tone expressed in all types of writing, including fiction and nonfiction as well as copywriting. Do you have a favorite writer because of her or his voice or tone? Tell us by commenting below.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

Click to Rate:
Average: 3.5
Published: June 15, 2016

11 Responses to “Unraveling the Mystery of Copywriter’s Voice and Tone”

  1. I like to read Nick Usborne's articles and training programs. This is mainly because I enjoy reading the copywriting voice and tone he has adapted over the years. He writes short sentences and uses simple, uncomplicated words. He also has an "English" sense of humor.

    In terms of fiction, some favorite authors include Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Clive Cussler, Dorothy Sayers, James Michener, Laura Ingalls Wilder, L.M Montgomery, C.S. Lewis, Isaac Asimov and many others.

    SheilaJune 15, 2016 at 9:07 am

  2. Got you, Will. Voice and tone in writing is so apparent in every individual. So when one has established his or her own writing style, it's quite difficult for someone to write in somebody else's style, voice and tone. You are right Will, read and study your client, your guru's writing style.

    Leo BlancoJune 15, 2016 at 12:53 pm

  3. If there's any writer I admire his voice is Zig Ziglar, and you as an addendum, cos since i met you, I feel my strength growing. Thanksprian

    Guest (Ramsey MB Cyrian)June 15, 2016 at 1:21 pm

  4. Hi Mr Will Newman,

    By reading and writing everyone is going to develop his own particular "Voice".
    I will interpret "Voice" as the brilliant mixture of experience and personal executive will of writing.
    You never will find an axiom greater than experience.
    If somebody loves writing,he or she will accept every sort of knowledge packing or adding to its significant experience.
    For example I learn every single point You send me as E-mail.I do appreciate Your "Voice".
    I thank You for Your efforts.

    Guest (ali rely)June 15, 2016 at 1:48 pm

  5. Hi Will, I've been trying to comment several weeks ago, but I'm very happy with new customers arriving, and they're happy. I'm currently doing courses on web videos. And I must tell that AWAI and a coach I have have helped me a lot with this.
    My voice! I love JK Rowling voice, the way she introduces every character. And I like your voice, it's quite convincing. :)

    Guest (Carlos)June 15, 2016 at 1:56 pm

  6. Will, you are without a doubt my favorite writer. I look forward to reading your letters and I've printed and saved all your pieces. Also, I have learned so much from you. I can see why you must be a fantastic teacher.
    I'm dreaming of the day when I'll be able to write as well as you do. Keep up the good work.
    Regards Hyacinth

    Guest (C Hyacinth Halstead)June 15, 2016 at 2:21 pm

  7. Hi,Will Newman, really, anyone have a favorite writer.
    His tone or manner of his writing shapes relation between writer and the writer.
    My favourite writer whose I like read on her blog, is Lolly Daskal.
    Also ,you Mr Will Newman your way is excellence.

    Guest (Magey thow )June 15, 2016 at 6:06 pm

  8. I like Ramit Sethi's (Of "I'll Teach you to become Rich',), or even Karen Marston's voice and tones. That unfettered,confident...this is how I am kind of expression. At once, a devil may care manner - though the undercurrent is total self belief. I wonder though if their tone and style would be appropriate for any kind of copywriting project?

    teejayJune 15, 2016 at 9:17 pm

  9. Mr. Will Newman, I enjoy reading your articles very much. Your writing is clear, simply stated, easily understood. Tone and Voice was greatly appreciated. Your wording simplified everything for me. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and knowledge!

    ChallensJune 16, 2016 at 10:41 am

  10. The writer I admire, though in small part mimicked is Frank Herbert; primarily his Dune series. However I do not like copying others, but I like his style and added a great deal of my personality. Soft, though firm.

    Guest (Ed)June 16, 2016 at 9:29 pm

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)