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Persuasive Copywriting Techniques 2: Write to a Real Person

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Among the tactics to use when it comes to writing to persuade:

Persuasive Copywriting Techniques 2: Write to a real person.

Persuasive Copywriting Technique 2: write to a real person with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting #Copywriting

The more you write with that reader in mind, the more persuasive your copy will be.

That’s because writing persuasive copy is a lot like talking on paper. Think about your tone, your words, the stuff you talk about when you have an actual conversation – it’s different, depending upon who it is you’re talking to.

Do you talk with your grandmother the same way you talk with your 28-year-old neighbor who works at the auto shop down the road? Or do you carry on a conversation with your daughter’s college professor the same way you talk with the check out gal in the grocery store?

I didn’t think so.

Write to a Real Person: 2 Steps

There are two steps you need to take in order to “talk on paper” to a real person.

  1. You need to know who your reader is
  2. You need to speak your reader’s language

1. How to Know Who Your Reader Is

  • Gather composite information about your readership – age, gender, marital status, family status, level of education, level of income. Use your donor data base or a simple reader survey to pull this information together. (This checklist may help.)
  • Create a profile of your average reader. Describe his family, job, home, pets, hobbies, favorite television shows and music, religious preference, political views, passions. Keep in mind that this profile will likely be fictional, though based on fact. It will speak about your “average reader” and not everyone on your list. That’s OK. Even though your profile won’t target every possibility, it will come close – and it will strike a chord with a large percentage of your constituency. 
  • Keep the profile in front of you as you write.

How to Speak Your Reader's Language


Listen to a person (or better yet, spend time with someone) who fits your reader profile. For instance, if you’re writing to a 50-year-old female professional, find one in your circle. Watch 50-year-old professional women on television interviews and listen to them on talk shows. Observe them in restaurants, train stations, and department stores. Capture their mannerisms, speech patterns, and preferences.

Know your reader’s self-image

Know how your reader views himself. Here is where you need to find a way to identify with your prospect. He may see himself as a patriotic citizen at the mercy of a fast-moving political trend, who simply wants to protect his family and hang onto his second amendment rights -- and he may feel victimized when others call him stubborn and lacking in compassion.  How can you talk to him on paper so that he feels he can trust you? By speaking with his values.

Understand your reader’s grasp of your cause

Understand what your reader already knows about your subject or your cause. Then identify what else your reader needs to know about your subject or your cause. This is very important. Your reader may have an inkling that teenagers today struggle for emotional survival in the midst of declining cultural values, but she may be unaware of the actual statistics about today’s teenagers when it comes to broken homes, abuse, addiction, internet, porn, depression, isolation, and suicide. Pick and choose. It's likely you have piles of information you can use. Don't blow your wad all at once or you may overwhelm your reader.

Determine what else your reader wants to know and feel about your subject or your cause. How can you increase her passion? Raise his hackles? Move her beyond complacency?

Ask your reader’s questions

Figure out what questions your reader has about your cause. You receive questions about your niche, product, or service all the time. What are they? Study the comments on your social media site. Ask staff and volunteers what confusion arises during phone calls and emails. Address those questions head-on. Explain to your reader why your content is important to her – and to her in particular.

Speak your reader’s language

Use language appropriate for the target reader’s demographic. Know the lingo. Would you say, “We truly appreciate the lovely gesture” to a 20-something? No. You’d say, “Thanks. You’re awesome.” And vice versa.

Persuasive Copywriting Techniques 2: The absolutely best way to write to your target reader

Think of someone you know who fits the description of your reader – maybe a relative, friend, neighbor, or colleague. Write as if you’re sitting across from this person having a conversation over a cup of coffee (or a soda, or a cup of tea, or other beverage that fits the profile.)

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