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3 (Top Secret Ultra James Bond) Ways to Add More Personality To Your Writing

In: Writing,

You know that moment when you're nonchalantly cradling your mother's urn in the elevator on your way to your apartment, and suddenly the elevator halts to a stop and 5 other people decide to get on, so you sort of panic because you don't know if they know that you're carrying A DEAD PERSON?

So you quickly make a joke about it in case they DO know, to relieve any awkwardness, because you're good at making jokes in awkward situations, except maybe you shouldn't make a joke about it because if they don't know, now they WILL know, and then you've probably just lost at least 3 invitations to tea. (Not to mention, what kind of a sicko makes jokes about dead mothers in an elevator full of strangers?) *slowly raises hand* *hurriedly tucks it back down to avoid looking like insensitive asshole to whole INTERNET*

But you know why I just told you that story?

Because I easily could have told that same story by saying:

“Last night I held my mother's urn in my arms as I rode the elevator to my apartment, when a group of 5 strangers entered the elevator. I was nervous because I couldn't tell if it was obvious it was an urn in my arms. Maybe they thought it was a vase? I could only hope. I didn't want to lose friends before I had any.”

What's the difference between those two presentations of the same information? (Besides the fact that I've used the word “urn” WAY too much for anyone's liking.)

The difference is simple: style.

The first paragraph is chock full of it. The latter? Not so much. And now let me ask you this: which was more fun to read? Which was more interesting? Which would be more likely to hold your attention?

Alas, it's the power of style in writing. And it can make or break you.

Style is the difference between loved vs. liked, iconic vs. ordinary.

And oftentimes, it's the difference between getting someone's attention…or not. For example, your customer's. Or your client's. Or your next online stalker.

Because let's face it: there's always going to be someone out there doing exactly what you're doing. Therefore, your ONLY weapon in a fierce market full of competition is not being cheaper, or being faster, or producing “higher quality.” Everyone's already doing that, so those things are expectations, not grand selling points. Rather, your only weapon now? Is your personality. (And your businesses' personality. Which is a sentence I didn't really want to write there because I hate when words end in S and you're manhandled into putting an apostrophe after the fact. UGLY.)

Personality humanizes you. It cuts through the bullshit. It makes you seem more authentic (without having to announce that you are, in fact, “authentic.”) It makes people want more of you. And most importantly, IT CONVERTS.

If you've never read the book Personality Not Included, you should stop eating your kale and go download it immediately. The authors make a sexy case for WHY businesses need personality, and how it helps to do all of those fancy things I just listed, like convert more sales.

So then the question becomes: HOW do you add more style to your writing, to your company, to your brand?

The tangibles, dear Watson.


Wrap a handkerchief around your neck and let's go.

Trick #1: When you're writing about your thing, think outside your context/industry.

In what other contexts does this same word/phrase appear, and how can you cleverly snatch it and use it in your current context?  So the first thing that I would do, for example, is think about the topic. Let's say I'm writing about acne and the shittiness that is having a red, inflamed face. What other things are red? What can I compare it to to make a clever statement? So I'm going to immediately go to the world's most useful tool, and type in the word “red.” (Seriously, this will change EVERYTHING.) When I do that, I get a list of common idioms using the word red. Things like: be in the red, cut through red tape, paint the town red, red hot, and see red.

See red. Hmmmm. Yes. I can use that. If I've got a red, acne inflamed face, I will be seeing red, literally, in the mirror, but also seeing red, in the idiomatic sense, because I'll be so darn mad about it.

So maybe I say something like, “You see red–literally–each morning when you're slapped in the face with a new breakout. Also literally. Because in case you've never had the pleasure of  cream-colored pus oozing from swollen holes on your face, acne stings.” <–Grossest example I could think of.

Trick #2: Take any common word, and say what it REALLY is, instead.

For example, I just did this above. Instead of using the word “acne” in the sentence above, I said “cream-colored pus oozing from swollen holes on your face.” Sure, it's a gross example. But it's way more interesting, isn't it. We can do this shit all day long:

I took my dog for a walk.
I took my furry little pee machine for a walk.

I drank the tea.
I drank the bitter juice that can only come from letting dried-up herb flakes float around in scalding water.

I washed my hair.
I washed the strands of dead protein that stick out of my head. (Ahahaha. Also gross.)

I cleaned out my freezer.
I cleaned out the icy box in my kitchen that is so good at keeping my ice cream cold, but so bad at making my skinny jeans fit.

I read a magazine.
I read a paper book chock full of tips about how to make my furry little pee machine pee less, and also ways to style the dead protein that sticks out of my head.

It also works with verbs!

I took my dog for a walk.
I tugged my dog around the neighborhood on a leash and tried to keep him from eating all the squirrels.

I drank the tea.
I did the dainty thing, and blew on the tea before I sipped it through my overly-pursed lips.

I washed my hair.
I squirted shampoo on my head, and dug my fingers in, making scrunching motions until there were so many suds I could make a shampoo mohawk.

I cleaned out my freezer.
I chipped away at the hunks of ice in my freezer, squinting my eyes into tiny slits to avoid death by flying ice shard.

I read a magazine.
I hung upside down off my couch, feasting on the ridiculous sex advice.

Trick #3: Exaggerate everything. In other words, dial in some hyperbole.

Hyperbole is probably the most awkward word in the English language, mostly because it reminds me of bowel movement. I'm not sure why. Let's not get into it. But as a rhetorical device, it's fucking fantastic. Hyperbole is when you use exaggeration for a heightened emotional effect, and no, I did not take that from the online dictionary. (Yes I did.) The best way to illustrate this is to make you read this. READ IT. It's the funniest thing I've read in at least 14,007 years. (See? Hyperbole.)

Are you reading what I'm writing?

No, not literally, because you're definitely reading what I'm writing. But are you READING what I'm WRITING? Picking up what I'm putting down? Are you feeling me? Are you on board? Are you getting ze gisssssst? (Said in my best evil Russian accent.)

There's a lot more where that came from, but you probably didn't mean to accidentally find yourself in English class on a Friday, so I'll calm the fuck down.

The ball's in your baseball field.

Enter your email address and I'll rummage around in my bag of tricks for JUST the thing.



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109 thoughts on "3 (Top Secret Ultra James Bond) Ways to Add More Personality To Your Writing"

  1. Wendy White says:

    Brilliant, hysterical, and so helpful, as always. I really need to step away from your blog because the more I read, the more I read…I have misplaced my husband, haven’t bathed in days, and I think the cat birthed something in the kitchen….but still I read on! The burrito hyperbole reminded me of this desk review, so had to share:

    Name: Now I have to find a new desk.

    Location: Don’t buy this desk, USA

    Headline: The worst experience I have ever had

    This was the worst experience I have ever had. When I am on my death bed I will look back on the moment I decided to purchase this desk as the lowest point in my life. Assembly was nothing short of a disaster- so discouraging I would rather have danced around burning money than used it to buy this desk and subject myself to the torture of having to assemble it. The assembly process completely destroyed almost every piece required to put the desk together- not to mention the floor and walls in the surrounding area. I would not recommend anyone buy this desk- everytime I look at it (not in desk form, but scattered pieces lying around what I thought would be my dream office space) I am filled with resentment and anger. The only reason I am wasting more precious moments of my life to expose the truth about this product is so others will not have to make the same mistake I did.

    Most Helpful Negative Review