One of the many challenges that writers face is writing to a variety of different audiences and demographics. What appeals to a group of boomers might be considered “cringy” to teenagers. As the father of a 13-year-old son, I am all too familiar with the trials and tribulations of trying to connect with the younger generation.
Connecting with a generation through writing that has always lived with cell phones and technology may be tough but it isn’t impossible. Still, it takes a little more diligence and tact than writing to a group that shares your same life experiences.
From one cool parent to another, here are some of the easiest ways to adapt your writing style to resonate with Gen Alpha and Gen Z readers.
Use Pop Culture References With Caution
If you have read any of my other articles within this blog you know that I am HUGE fan of pop culture references. Even I must admit that using pop culture references with a generation or two younger than yourself can be a minefield. You mix up Jake Paul and Machine Gun Kelly and your credibility is out the window.
The challenge with using pop culture references with the younger generations is that they fall out of favor faster than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This generation is all too familiar with cancel culture and it can bite you when creating evergreen content.
So how do you incorporate these golden nuggets into your copy? Do a little research and if there is any hesitation, kick it to the curb in place of something else.
Make it Relatable
This might seem like a no-brainer, but many writers fail to connect with Gen Alpha/Gen Z on a base level. They struggle with this aspect because there is a perception that these generations do not share the same life experiences or values as their older counterparts. This can be particularly true if there is a 4-6 generation gap between you and your readers.
Even if your teenage years were 40 glorious years ago, you share life more life experiences with today’s teenagers than you might realize. You know the feeling of your first love, your first breakup, how you were ready to change the world, and most importantly how much you wanted to be treated like an adult.
Teens are exposed to the real world much earlier than I certainly was, so it pays to approach them like you would any other adult in your writing.
Don’t be a “Try Hard”
Whether you know the term “try hard,” or not, you most certainly know someone that does everything that they can hold onto their youth. The “cool” parents. The 40-year-old that makes you question their life choices. If you are one of those people, more power to you, but know that teenage readers will see right through the bullshit.
The best advice that I can give you is to avoid using slang in an attempt to connect with the younger generations on their level. 9 out of 10 times you will come out looking like a buffoon. Sure it is funny when grandma uses the word “fire” to describe her meal at the Cracker Barrel or refers to something as “sus” but it shouldn’t be used in any copywriting where the younger generation is the target audience.
Balance Casual and Informative
Cool kid terminology aside, it is important to keep your copy casual and avoid it becoming too formal or, God forbid, preachy. Going back to the point about shared experiences, you know the feeling of adults talking down to you constantly. How likely were you to shut down and ignore whatever information was being presented to you when those tones were present?
I won’t lie to you, it is basically walking a tightrope with every keystroke. You have to be able to find the balance between a casual tone and enough information to keep the reader engaged. If you are able to navigate it properly, you can generate action.
Don’t Overthink it
Now that I have your wheels turning, it is time to pull an M. Night Shyamalan plot twist and tell you to stop overthinking it. While all of the points that we have currently discussed are 100% relevant, it is important to take a step back and realize that you are writing to other humans about human things. I will be the first to accept that talking with teenagers can be as complicated as rocket science, however, I can also tell you the best conversations I have had with my son are the ones where I treated him like a human.
Regardless of what generation you are trying to connect with through your writing always remember that they are people just like us. Write to them in a way that they can see that, and you will have success.