In my last post, I published Scott Lindsay’s article on emulation for learning writing styles. However, I later realized I’d used a very similar technique when studying direct response marketing. Rather, I was forced to use it.
The technique? Simple. Copy passages of the writing style you wish to learn, not thought for thought as in emulations, but word for word.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about plagiarism. You’ll never publish or in any way use the actual passages you copy. The idea is to get the language so ingrained into your mind that the style comes naturally.
For example, take that direct response marketing course I mentioned above. To teach the direct response style of writing, instructors gave students copies of well-performing sales letters. Our task was to read through each one, out loud if possible, ten times or so. Once that was done, we were to copy each letter, word for word, at least five times. If you’ve ever seen a direct response marketing letter, you know how long they are. The first read through was fine. Everything after that felt like cruel and unusual punishment. Talk about boring! In fact, I got so bored, I never finished the course. What, I thought, is the point of copying these letters time after time?
It wasn’t until later that I realized the method I hated so much had actually worked. After copying only a few of those letters, the style and language had so embedded themselves in my psyche, it became natural for me to enter “direct response” mode when the occasion called for it.
If you’re trying to learn a writing style, whether fiction, nonfiction or poetry, try this simple copying technique. Most likely, every single moment will be painful (sorry, I have to be honest). However, if you’re serious about branching out and challenging yourself, this method provides great benefits that will last years into the future.