She Who Dares | Using human language to give your business the edge

The simple secret to help your business stand out among the communication chatter


Using human language to give your business the edge

By Copywriter and Author Sarah Townsend


Business writing doesn’t need to be formal or stuffy – and it should never be boring!

But something happens when we’re faced with a blank screen and a burning need to communicate with our clients and customers… We turn into Apprentice candidates and start spouting words we’d never use in real life.

?  “Please do not hesitate to contact myself, should you require any further information”

?  “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused”

?  “We would be delighted to assist you in this matter”

Headshot of copywriter Sarah Townsend smiling with arms crossed, talking about how to use human language to give your business the edge
Copywriter Sarah Townsend


This is robot language: a blend of corporate speak, jargon and business bullsh*t.

The trouble with robot language is that it forces a distance between you and your reader, instead of creating the connection, empathy and trust needed to turn casual browsers into paying clients.

Remember – your words aren’t read by businesses or brands. They’re read by humans – which is why human language is the simple secret to help your business stand out among the communication chatter.


Why is human language so important?

No matter what business you’re in – whether you consider yourself to be B2B or B2C – you’re a person trying to help another person. 

Human to human (H2H) if you like.

If you want your brand to be memorable and successful, your writing needs to be engaging – to make your reader feel – and writing like a robot has the opposite effect.

It’s refreshing when a business or a brand speaks to you like a human:


❤️  “We messed up! We’re sorry”

❤️  “I’m here to help”

❤️  “Let me know if you need more information”


The easiest way to find your human voice is to ditch formal, stuffy business speak in favour of real words that real people really use.

 Remember – your copy should sound like you. If you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it. (Need help with that? My copy coaching sessions are designed to help you find your human voice and get your writing read.)

A beautiful work space with flowers and an old camera and a computer set up on the table

Here are five human language tips to get you started:

1) Use contractions

The simplest tip of all! Contractions are a quick win to help your writing sound more natural.

? A conversation with someone who does not use contractions will not feel natural. It can also feel like you are being told off.

❤️ A conversation with someone who doesn’t use contractions won’t feel natural. It can also feel like you’re being told off!


2) Have a conversation with your reader

Famous ad executive, Shirley Polykoff, said:

“Copy is a direct conversation with your consumer”

Stop thinking of your audience as a room full of your dream clients. Broadcasting to an audience of thousands won’t help you make that all-important connection. Instead, have a one-to-one conversation with your ideal client.

Start with some groundwork. Who is she? What makes her tick? What keeps her awake at night? What are her greatest hopes? What are her biggest fears? How does your product or service help by solving her problems?

Once you have a clear image of your dream client in mind, picture her every time you write. Imagine her sitting opposite you, sharing a coffee and listening to your ideas. 


? “We understand the pressure our clients are under…”

Your dream client doesn’t care about your clients. She only cares about herself, and how you can make her life easier. See how the example below sounds more empathetic than the one above?

❤️ “I understand the pressure you’re under…”


Keep that dream client in mind every time you write and you can’t go far wrong.


3) Break up your text

Ad legend Leo Burnett said:

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.”

Does your writing look like an impenetrable wall of words? Let’s fix that. 

The human brain finds it easier to process information that’s presented in an attractive way – and that means using subheadings, quotes and bullets to break up your text.

Short, punchy sentences and paragraphs help – but mix up the length to make your writing read more like a conversation. 

Emojis can make your social media posts and email newsletters look more visually appealing, and help to communicate tone. Don’t use emojis to replace words, as this creates accessibility issues. Instead, use them sparingly to enhance your message.

A close up of a woman's hands holding a cup of tea

4) Get to the point

Bestselling writer, Neil Gaiman, said:

“Don’t obsess over grammar. If you have to obsess, obsess over clarity”

Your reader is busy. They’re overwhelmed. They’re drowning in information. And you have 8 seconds to grab their attention.

Respect your reader’s time by making your message super clear and removing the barriers to understanding. How?

  • Edit ruthlessly
  • Cut the fluff and filler
  • Stop saying the same thing twice
  • Get super clear on what action you want your reader to take as a result of what they’re reading – and communicate that in a clear call to action

Here’s a real-life example of what happens when you show off your knowledge and forget your reader just wants to know how you can help them:

? Deep, uninterrupted sleep enhances muscle protein synthesis and growth hormones – both of which are crucial for fat reduction and muscle building.

❤️ Deep sleep helps your body recover after exercise.

5) Ditch these four words

Mark Twain said:

“Substitute DAMN every time you’re inclined to write VERY. Your editor will delete it and your writing will be just as it should be.”

THAT, JUST, VERY and REALLY are filler words. They’re often unnecessary – and removing them from your writing is a great place to start shedding the fluff that gets in the way of human connection.

JUST is often used to diminish (“I’m JUST a freelancer” “I JUST do a bit of design work”) and while use VERY and REALLY to emphasise meaning, the result is often wishy washy.


Instead of…

Very/really important… try… essential/vital

Very/really good… try… great/excellent/superb/exceptional

Very/really big… try… huge/enormous/gigantic/monstrous


In summary…

  • Use contractions
  • Have a conversation with your reader
  • Break up your text
  • Get to the point

 A close up of a women flicking through a coffee table book

Avoid embarrassing mistakes

While writing like a human is important, that doesn’t include human error! Part of making sure you’re understood is using the right versions of those commonly confused words that can trip you up and change the meaning of your message. 

(The last thing you want to do is tell your client to ‘BARE with me’ ?)

My Little Book of Confusables contains fun, memorable spelling and usage tips for almost 600 commonly confused words and phrases – from white as a sheep and damp squid to acute/chronic, imply/infer, poisonous/venomous – because we ALL have language blindspots! You’ll wonder how you ever managed without it!

The Little Book of Confusables by Sarah Townsend

Freelance copywriter, Sarah Townsend, has spent 20+ years helping businesses get noticed, using powerful, persuasive human language to promote their products and services.

She provides affordable copy coaching sessions to small business owners looking to upskill their writing, and is the author of two Amazon bestselling books: Survival Skills for Freelancers and The Little Book of Confusables.

Sarah has taken part in live events for organisations such as BBC Radio, Enterprise Nation, the CIPR, ITI and Content Marketing Association, and shared her advice on over 60 podcasts. Connect with her on social media, or find more information here.


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