Most of the time, writing aesthetic only comes up in discussions about novels and short stories. However, the topic is fascinating and something every type of writer should consider.
True, I may be a little biased having spent four years and quite a bit of money taking classes studying them. But I only really learned how important it was to have a writing aesthetic of your own after becoming a freelance copywriter.
Finding your writing aesthetic can be difficult and requires a bit of thought on what and how you write. The goal of this post isn’t to give you an aesthetic to follow, but to give you the information you need to refine your own.
What is Writing Aesthetic?
Writing aesthetic is the feeling or atmosphere of a work produced by a combination of writing techniques and devices, diction, references, and individual style.
It is a broad and complicated topic people can spend years studying (like I did). Boiling it down though, you can think of it as the atmosphere or vibe of a person’s writing. For instance, when someone refers to a piece of writing as “Dickensian” or “Kafkaesque” they mean the writing has a similar aesthetic to Dickens or Kafka’s work.
Aesthetics can be broader than a single writer too. Periods of literary history are usual defined by the general aesthetic of most writing during that time. The Romantic movement in the late 1800s was defined by emotion and imagination, while the Realist movement of the late 1900s emphasized faithful representation of reality.
Writing Aesthetic Examples
I could go on and on about different literary movements and their aesthetics. I doubt you want to indulge my literary nerdiness, though. So instead, let’s look at some top copywriters’ writing aesthetics.
If there is one person who has mastered the copywriter’s goal of being relatable and engaging, it’s Demian Farnworth. As a former Chief Content Writer at the Copyblogger and the founder of the Copybot, he is one of the best copywriters out there.
Part of the key to his success is the casual, straightforward aesthetic found in all of his articles and posts. Sure, flashy and unique aesthetics are appealing, but there is a lot of merit in a relatable style too. Farnworth is great at presenting himself as an everyday guy who just happens to have some helpful advice for the reader with his writing aesthetic.
Another top dog of the copywriting world was Gary Bencivegna. Though he’s retired as of now, he was someone who defined the copywriting profession for years.
Have you ever heard a sales pitch so inviting you just couldn’t believe it was true? Gary was probably behind it. His aesthetic lent itself to heaping benefit after benefit at the reader until they stopped reading because they couldn’t wait any longer to place a purchase.
Finding Your Own Aesthetic
But enough about other writers’ aesthetics, let’s look at how you can find your own.
Tap Into Your Feelings
What is the thing people remember most about a piece of writing after they’ve finished reading? Is it the best line or the longest paragraph? No, it’s the way the writing made them feel.
You don’t pull the emotion of your copy out of thin air. It comes from your own feelings while writing. Focus on the feeling you want to evoke while writing and do your best to translate it onto the page.
Apply Writing Techniques
While your aesthetic can be nebulous or hard to define, the way you create it shouldn’t. Dust off some of those writing techniques you were taught in school. A few good examples are:
- Metaphors/Similes. Not only do they help readers understand complicated ideas, but they also fill your copy with engaging imagery.
- Foreshadowing. It’s not just for storytelling. Hint at interesting solutions, problems, or topics that you’ll touch on later in the copy to keep readers engaged.
- Irony/Sarcasm. We’re talking about the written kind, e.g. “The lemonade is as sweet as a sucker punch.”
A writing aesthetic can be defined by the writing techniques it doesn’t use as much as the ones it does, though. Don’t feel like you have to stuff your copy full of metaphors if your writing aesthetic tends towards straightforwardness and direct phrasing.
Steal From the Best
It’s impossible to be completely original nowadays. Any writing aesthetic you use will likely have been used by someone else at some point in time.
Don’t let that discourage you! If it’s all been done before, then there’s no harm in stealing a little style from other writers you admire. Steal as much as you can from as many people as possible.
Good artists copy, great artists steal. Hell, even that quote has been stolen by numerous famous artists. Steal parts and pieces from other writers then improve on and combine them to create something unique and personalized. Copying another writer’s style just leads to a hollow and less appealing version of their work.
Read! Read! Read!
How will you know what good writing looks like if you don’t read it? Whatever field of writing you work in, be sure to read as much of it as you can. Read bad writing too, as it can teach you what not to do in your own work.
Plan Ahead of Time
Planning is just as important in defining your writing aesthetic as actually writing. Take some time at the beginning of every new project to consider what structure and format would best help the reader understand your points. It may sound like an inspiration-sapping bore, but the planning of a project is often where your personality and creativity shine the most.
The planning process which has worked best for me has 5 steps:
- Spend time researching and thinking about your topic. You should become a minor expert in it before sitting down to write.
- Write down the most important points. Weed out unnecessary or unhelpful points.
- Reorganize those points so they flow smoothly. Look at how the points overlap and organize them accordingly.
- Come up with a unique introduction or approach you can thread between points. Here’s where I have found the most freedom to be creative and unique.
- Tie up loose ends. Preemptively answer any questions you feel a reader might have.
Analyze Your Writing Habits
Peculiar habits in your writing can help you stand out, but they can also hold you back. I know I have a bad habit of overusing the word “that” while writing. It helps me maintain a writing flow, but leaves clunky filler in my final drafts.
Going back through my copy before any final edit and removing as many useless “that”s as possible has become an integral part of my writing process. Try to analyze your bad habits and work on minimizing them. If you aren’t sure what to watch out for, take a look at this list of bad writing habits for some ideas of what you should watch out for.
Edit Your Way to Success
Above all, a writing aesthetic is a conscious choice. You should have an idea of your copy’s vibe from the start, but it’s almost impossible to maintain that atmosphere while writing it. Keep an eye out for places lacking in aesthetic during the editing stage and change them to better fit.
Finding your own writing aesthetic can take time, so don’t worry if yours isn’t completely refined just yet. The more you write and the more you read other writing, the more your writing aesthetic will take shape.
But don’t just sit back and wait for it to come to you. Every new project is an opportunity to follow the guidelines above and practice crafting an aesthetic for your copy. You can even use writing sprints to test out different approaches.
How Do I Create a Writing Aesthetic?
A writing aesthetic is the combination of numerous aspects of a piece of copy that creates an overall feeling or vibe. The best way to create a specific writing aesthetic is to read the work of other writers with it. Analyze the way they create that aesthetic and try implementing it into your own.
Finding your unique aesthetic can be a little bit trickier. Our guidelines above are a great place to start, though. Use them while writing and practice as much as possible to develop your aesthetic over time.