Shirtsleeve English: copywriting that rolls down the page

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Some words are ear words [best heard], while others are eye words [best seen].

Copywriting that is compelling and conversational melds the two frontiers of ear and eye; having been written to persuade, motivate and impassion. It creates a relationship or bond, and the more connected you feel, the more likely you’ll collect around the storyline.

The words used in shirtsleeve English – written as you would speak – are the exact ones that create connection and rapport.

Using contractions, sentence fragments and informal language makes the writing more relatable, builds a natural affinity and engages you.

And engaged readers build communities around each other and spread the word.

So if you want your words to creep and your reader’s eyes to roll down the page, use shirtsleeve English.


Have you rolled up your sleeves before you started writing? Leave your thoughts


Photo credit: via photopin cc

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  1. Yvonne Root

    November 13, 2012

    Post a Reply

    Hi Di,

    I hadn’t heard the term “shirtsleeve English” before but I like it. I think being cognizant of the fact you’re using this style of writing is important.

    While I’m quite willing to read off kilter English from folks for whom English is a second language, I’m quite put off by those blogs and articles which are written by folks who didn’t pay attention in English 101.

    My mom used to remind me that there are often times when you can break the rules — but first you must know them.

    Thanks for letting me spout about one of my tiny pet peeves. 🙂
    Yvonne Root recently posted..An Honest Mirror, a Poisoned Apple, 7 Friends and Happily Ever After

    • Di Mace

      November 13, 2012

      Post a Reply

      You are so right Yvonne! You have to know the rules before you can break them, and yes, sloppy language/writing is inexcusable. I can’t remember where I heard/read the term shirtsleeve English, but it stuck with me because it so aptly decribed the affinity rolled into its use 🙂

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