I admit it: I’ve been caught red-handed. I blatantly stole “chica” from Sharon O’Day and hijacked the phrase “get into pole position” from Izzy Woods. I’d even steal from my kids, if given the chance.
Taking a lively voice from the younger generation
Among my three teens, I have one who studies Spanish in school, one who studies French, and one who studies Hebrew. On Saturday nights when sleepovers add to the mix, the volume at dinner time gets especially annoying.
I am usually good natured, taking the view that I’ll learn something about teenage life if I keep my ears open. Or maybe I’ll hear the latest hip lingo–useful for the lively voice I aim to have on my blog.
Recently, I heard something.
There is a phrase in French that refers to someone who is full of hot air, an arrogant type. Il pête plus haut que son cul. My hubbie translated it as, “he farts from a higher place than his ass.”
You see what I mean? Not sure where I’m going to use that turn of phrase. But the seven of us broke into hysterics when it was said out loud.
Why HOW you say it counts as much as WHAT you say
The reality: We are all tuned out. We don’t want boring. Dull language turns off readers like a piece of uncooked fish sitting too long in the ‘fridge. That may not be so for The New Yorker’s audience, but blog writing is supposed to be natural and entertaining. So a decision was made to write lively prose at Mojo40, simply to keep the audience from bolting.
I faced a problem. I am not especially great in digging up emotive, sharp language or funny juxtapositions. I can conjure up analogies or related examples. But I’ll admit I often use a crutch.
I’ll whisper my 6 best tips and you can use them, too, if you wish.
1. Find inspiration in trashy magazines
You know those magazines that tell you who wore the dress best, or who had the latest mental breakdown among starlets. Magazines like Star or Us. I wouldn’t normally pull them off the shelf, but in fact I use them for research.
Next time you are in a beauty parlor, a doctor’s waiting office, or at the nail salon, submerge yourself in trash. Yes! You will get so many ideas for tarting up a phrase that you will feel the tug of a keyboard immediately!
A few pages perused, and you will say “get that” with almost as many variations as there are sex positions in the kama sutra.
2. Subscribe to tips from brands that are lubricated and lovin’ it
Look for young brands in the fashion sector online, and sign up for their tips. I receive emails with serious attitude from Refinery29.com, for example. The way their flirty teasers are written can help me paint in brighter words.
I also recommend following other bloggers who have banished the boring voice once and for all. Suitcaseentrepreneur.com always has a big hello that unpacks vivid vernacular.
3. Note that online reviews use sharp language
Online sites with candid writing are particularly good for discovering more sass. Folks will tell you straight out, “Don’t waste your time, this place bites,” a direct quote from reader reviews on tripadvisor.com.
4. Read signs everywhere
It’s not just Jay Leno who “discovers” kooky signs. I saw this one at the airport. Sound menacing?
If you get into the habit of reading signs everywhere, you will see that businesses have gone much further down the path of word play. For example, a sign spotted recently said, “If you don’t know Molly’s Tavern, you don’t know Jack.”
5. Read non-fiction books–real books with contemporary settings
Among my recent favorites is How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gill. Even Walter Isaacson’s tome about Steve Jobs had wonderful language for eliciting buttery phrases in work and life. While some expressions are useful, other zingers aren’t printable.
6. Check out Jon Morrow to craft better headlines
Headlines merit your very best skills to protect yourself from oblivion. Jon, an Associate Editor of Copyblogger, gave a wonderful seminar recently that opened my eyes to writing better headlines. Similar actionable advice is FREE as a pdf at headlinehacks.com. However, like any smart marketer, he has bounded the free period, so grab it now while the pickings are hot.
- As an exercise, write two paragraphs about your day. Save it under the title “Boring version.” Next, find a time-wasting magazine or go to an online review site, study it, and grab the phrases that really command your attention. Then re-write those two paragraphs incorporating your “special sauce.” Compare to see your progress.
- If you are a job seeker, practice lively writing by composing your next thank you note (to someone who spent quality time with you) as a “Top Ten Reasons I Adored Our Meeting” (a la David Letterman).
- If you are employed, try a lively list for your Q1 2012 Goals. Do co-workers react differently when your 90-day goals aren’t a snooze?
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, erichhh
Do you have other suggestions for better writing? Please share below.
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