Add a Human Touch

Last week I edited a cover letter for my brother-in-law. He’s applying for some new jobs and asked for my input. While I’ve worked for mostly small, startup-type organizations in my career, he’s aiming to work with government contractors and other large corporations so I wasn’t quite sure my value add would be helpful to his context. I quickly realized I was wrong and I definitely had value to add.

Most people do NOT write like they talk.

But they should. 

I’ve written about this before, but from a more practical standpoint here are a couple of things have significantly increased the strength of my writing (and increased the results I see from said writing):

  • Use contractions

  • Use colloquialisms (ie slang)

  • Ignore a minimum of 50% of the writing rules you were taught growing up

If you start with those three simple bullets (within reason), your writing will improve.

In almost every scenario contractions sound better and more natural than separating the words out. The only time you’ll want to ignore this rule is when you’re really trying to emphasize something or make a point.

Colloquialisms humanize your language in a way that nothing else can. Use slang every now and then when it's appropriate, fits the message and stays on-brand. It makes you more relatable and it's more akin to what you'd sound like in a spoken conversation.

Ignoring most of the rules you were taught about writing is what will truly separate you from the pack. My English teachers never liked my writing because I hated their formulas and rules for writing. Now I write to make money. Not sure any of them can say that.

When I first started editing this cover letter for my brother in law, I wasn’t entirely sure it hadn’t been written by a robot.

It was the most unnatural, robotic, and formal thing I’d read in weeks. I’m sure it looks just like every other cover letter being submitted for the position, but that means there is a greater opportunity to stand out by humanizing it.

I told my brother-in-law to take my comments/suggestions and do with them as he pleased. Use them or not it was up to him whether to humanize his letter or let it ride as it was.

I added contractions, emotional language (colloquialisms), and personality (something most english teachers seem to hate) to the cover letter.

Which version do you think he submitted?

These guidelines are the same ones that I leverage when writing copy for companies, for my own objectives, and beyond. People want to interact with other people.

When you write like a real person it resonates with real people.

Give it a shot this week in some of your communication and let me know if you see an engagement spike.