Yesterday, I was reading about the science of smiling in Wired.
According to the article, we humans are pretty good at detecting whether smiles are genuine or not – as long as we put our minds to it.
Even I can do it to an accuracy level of 95%, as I discovered by taking this ‘Spot the Fake Smile‘ test from the BBC.
The trick is to gauge whether a person ‘smiles with their eyes’ – genuine smilers contract a muscle round their eyes called the obicularis occuli.
When we pay attention, we pick up on this signal (even if we’re not conscious of it) and are able to tell whether a smile is real or not.
The problem comes in complicated, real world situations.
Because we don’t look as closely at people, we’re more likely to interpret fake smiles as genuine.
But we can get it right if we concentrate.
In fact, we can even tell (with a good degree of accuracy) whether someone shares our nationality – just by looking at their smile.
Does your copy smile?
So what does all this have to do with copywriting?
Quite a lot as it happens.
In the years I’ve written copy for businesses, I’ve always been able to tell from my work whether my heart has been in a job – even if I come back to revise what I’ve written a week later.
I’m also pretty good at spotting when a colleague has less than their normal enthusiasm for a task, simply by reading what they’ve written.
You could argue that it’s because I remember how I felt when I wrote a piece, or I knew that a colleague was feeling down when they produced less-than-ideal copy.
But I don’t think that’s the whole story.
I’d argue that there are unconscious factors you can pick up on in someone’s writing – and they show you whether the writer meant what they said, or was simply going through the motions.
I’d certainly like to create an experiment to find out. Perhaps you could help me?
But in the meantime, I’m going to vet my own copy and that of my colleagues as rigorously as ever.
Because while clients may not pay attention when you smile, they certainly do when they read your work.