D'you have an accent? Most people do, but how many of us make the most of it in our day-to-day communications? I’m not talking just about speaking, but in our written voice too.
So much of the content we see now has little, or a diluted sense of place. It could have been written almost anywhere from: Glasgow to Bristol, Kent or Cardiff. Part of what makes us Brits charming, unique and slightly eccentric is our myriad range of accents. Every region of the UK boasts a tribe of linguists who pronounce words in their own unique way. Local accents are part of local dialect, all with unique features of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. There are 56 main 'accent types' in the British Isles and within each one there are further local variations. With this much variation and richness in our language, are we using it to its full potential to give personality to our brand communications?
I often get asked: “Where are you from?” My accent is quite subtle (handy if I ever wanted to be a newsreader.) I tend to properly give the game away on the phone to relatives in the West Country. Apparently (ahem!) there are a few words I can’t say correctly: bath comes out as ‘baath', grass is ‘graaas’, I sometimes say: "where's 'e too?”, much to my families amusement. But I don’t care. I like the way my inner monologue chucks out phrases that make others smile, it’s part of what makes me, me.
When I reply: "I’m from Somerset", they say: “ooh it’s so beautiful ‘down there’ what're you doing here?" Well here - Coventry - is where I’ve put down roots, bought a home and started design company The Usual Studio, 9 years ago. I moved to study Graphic Design at Coventry University and like many people ended up adopting my Uni destination as a home-from-home. But I’ve kept my subtle accent and while I admit there is a bit of West Midlands blending into my vocab, for the most part my accent is still rooted in Somerset.
Writing is becoming an increasingly important tool for all of us, whether we are pro communicators - journalists, PR’s, designers, marketeer’s etc - or not, it’s part of our roles. Truly engaging writers write as they talk: regional words, wonky phrases, occasional suspect sentences and all.
Accents add a real sense or rhythm to your writing and personality to your brand communications. I would much rather immerse myself in conversational writing, than overly formal wordy text, that needs a double read to be understood. This doesn’t mean dumming down and not using ‘big' words, it means making writing more accessible and enjoyable to read.
An added bonus of using accents in your writing - whether that’s an email, blog post, social media, or web copy - they’re a useful way to form bonds, handy when relationship building with new clients or customers. They hint at our individual story, which in turn sparks conversations, questions, tales of long-ago visits and nearby landmarks when we speak. All that, thanks to using a different tone of voice when writing.
With more time than ever spent communicating on screens rather than face-to-face it’s vital that we don’t lose our sense of us. People buy from people and if they can’t get a true sense of who you are from your brand communications, they’re less likely to remember or buy from you.
Here’s a quick guide to adding an authentic (regional) dialect when you write:
- Rely on the rhythm of the language: let your writing have interesting word choices and occasional incorrect sentence constructions.
- Spellings: allow yourself the occasional blurring of words, phonetic misspelling or odd turn of phrase; your writing will be all the more fun for it.
- Create a conversational opening and ending sentence to hook your reader: make it light hearted or bold - whatever suits the topic - but give it some personality.
- Try a simple stream-of-consciousness exercise: Pick a word or an idea you want to explore and without hesitation write down everything you know about it on paper, in only 5 minutes. This speedy exercise will loosen up your writing style and add a real sense of your voice.
- Write fast: writing quickly helps to stop the self editor in all of us from rearing it’s ugly head. You can always go back and edit afterwards.
- Record yourself talking about your idea, product or service to a friend or colleague: listen closely and transcribe into text. The way we explain our ideas verbally is often a better way of explaining our ideas, than writing on screen.
- Don't over do it: a few choice phrases here and will add personality and voice, too many will have less impact and leave you with a document loaded with local lingo!
If you need a hand or an ‘and with your brand communications, whether that’s writing some luverly blog posts or creating a new brand publication we would love to help.
Image: Postcard map of the Shakespeare Country, drawn by M F Peck
- Charlee Sully, Brand Consultant, The Usual Studio
I work across design, ideas, strategy and content, writing about branding, design, innovation and entrepreneurship. I love sushi, tea's my cuppa of choice and BBC6 music's always on. Unlike a former housemate - I do find comedy funny.