How to write for Gen Z without sounding like you’re 100 years old

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Do you ever feel a bit… old?


I’m not talking about wrinkles, grey hair, or groaning when you sit down or stand up (although I definitely do that).


I’m talking about when you overhear the “younguns” chatting and it feels like they’re speaking a whole different language.


But for marketers, copywriters, or anyone whose job relies on speaking to a wide audience of diverse people, you need to be able to at least kind of understand where Gen Z are coming from in order to talk to them.


And with a new generation hot on their tailcoats (Hi Gen Alpha 👋), ready to burst into relevancy and turn everything we thought we knew about young people on its head, we should probably start making sure we know what’s what – before it’s too late.

But wait wait… what actually is a genz?

Genz? No, it’s Gen Z, as in Generation… don’t worry.


If I were to ask you how old a Gen Zer is, you’d probably picture a 16-year-old popping a gritty on TikTok, right?




Give or take a couple of years, Gen Zers are the group of people who were born between 1997 and 2012.


Yeah that’s right, 1997.


You can be a Gen Z AND a 90’s kid. 




And straight off the bat, we’ve stumbled onto one of the many, many misconceptions about this generation. 


But we’ll get to that later. 


What sets Gen Z apart as a generation is their values and upbringing. 


This is a highly educated, highly tuned-in group of people who have grown up in the most information-laden time in human history. 


With near-constant access to the internet – a whole wealth of data, news, and information has been at their fingertips since they could toddle up to their parents, outstretch their lil arms, and garble ‘gib iPad’. 


These are people who have had world news shoved in front of them at every opportunity. 


These are people who have had to contend with the era of disinformation and ‘fake news’. 

These are people who have witnessed the highs and upsettingly low lows of the internet.


They understand the intricacies of society, they understand the importance of social justice and welfare, and they are so tuned in to what’s going on around them that they’ll hear every single detail that goes on from Kentucky to Kenya.


So how in the name of all that is holy and moly are we supposed to connect to and actually write for these people?


Let’s start with what not to do

Whenever you sit down to write something geared towards Gen Z, you might have a tick list of what you need to do, how you need to speak, and what you have to say. 


But realistically, a whole generation of people don’t really fit into a tick box. 


So instead, let’s talk about some things you should probably avoid if you don’t want to sound like a (dare I say it?!) massive boomer. 


Don’t overuse slang

“So, I dead ass yeeted my fit check on Insta today, it was lowkey fire, no cap, and everyone was vibing with it big time, sending me all the hype and good vibes, like, it’s what’s up, fam!”


*shudders in cringe*


For some strange reason, people think that if you want to talk to Gen Z, you have to sound like them (not that any Gen Z person would ever utter that complete monstrosity). 


But realistically, if you try to sound like you’re a Gen Zer, all you end up doing is sounding like a prehistoric dinosaur trying to fit in with the cool kids, à la Steve Buscemi. 





The issue is twofold. 


First off, language changes so fast that by the time you’ve written, proofed, and posted your work, you’re probably going to sound outdated. 


Second, when you shoehorn buzzwords into your writing just to try and target a particular audience, you’re going to be found out pretty quickly. 


But speaking to younger audiences effectively is possible – we promise. 


Money management company Cleo is a good example of how to do it right. 


Their whole shtick is that their AI chats have some humour and personality – rather than just your typical binary 100101101 bot chat – and it’s a lovely example of speaking to a younger audience.


They launched a “Roast mode” campaign that took the mick out of people’s spending habits. 

Gen Z content sample

Notice how their copy is quite obviously skewed towards a younger audience, but they avoid using any overly cliche phrases or words – it’s just the vibe of the whole thing that’s appealing. 

don’t talk at them, talk to them

I’ll be honest, I think this is a pretty standard rule for copywriting and marketing in general, not just for Gen Z audiences. 


But at the same time, this nugget of advice is especially important for this lot. 


It’s funny, people always say that Gen Z have the shortest attention spans of any other generation. So you’re always told to:


“Keep it short” 

“Get to the point quickly” 

“Use simple language” 


And while these points are actually pretty good advice, it’s not just advice for Gen Z audiences. 


It’s the same for literally every audience. 


And by making out like it’s just for Gen Zers is actually low-key insulting. 


Like, check out this article I found when doing some research for this:



Because Gen Z don’t have a record-short attention span. 


They can just spot bullsh*t from a mile off. And when they spot it, they’ll simply disengage. 


So what’s the answer?


The key is not to talk like them or at them, it’s to talk to them. 


Let’s take a look at TELFAR, a fashion brand established in 2005 in NYC. 


They 100% get what it means to appeal to a younger audience. From their tagline ‘It’s not for you — it’s for everyone’ to the way they speak to their audience on their website:


Gen Z content sample Telfar Duffle

Source: TELFAR duffle 


The copy is relaxed, speaks directly to the reader, and – most importantly – understands them. It’s not littered with slang, it’s not “trying to keep your pitifully short attention”, but what it does do is drops a lovely line in at the end that gives the copy a pop of flavour and colour;


“PS: all three sizes nest and look bomb as a trio.” 


It’s these golden little tidbits that make the brand sound genuine, giving you friendly tips almost like a friend would. 


It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it’s brilliant. 


Don’t assume Gen Z are all teenagers

Remember when I said some Gen Zers were born in the 90s?


That wasn’t a joke.


It’s a common pitfall to think that when you write for this audience, you have to massively age down your copy. 


But in fact, a decent chunk of this demographic are full-blown adults. 


They’re making money, drinking, voting, marrying, having children, regretting having children but still begrudgingly loving them anyway – proper grown-up stuff.

genz vs people in late 20s

Remember, when you’ve been given a brief to ‘target towards Gen Z’, you might be writing for teenagers making their way through school, or 20-somethings finishing college and starting their careers, or people starting up a family. 


So don’t pigeon-hole. 


Okay, now tell me what I should do

Honestly, it’s simple:


Be genuine, be transparent, be real (and being funny helps)

Isn’t it just the most painful thing when a brand or company tries to connect with you on a ✨human level✨? It’s like they’ve read the latest LinkedIn guru’s corporate thought piece on how ‘brands must connect with the everyman’ and tried a copy/paste approach. 


It’s just so obvious that they don’t mean it. 


So now you’re thinking “But Rob, how am I supposed to connect with my audience but not try to connect?” 


The answer is simple:


Be genuine. 


Okay stick with me here, but it’s pretty much exactly the same as dating. 


If you rock up to your first date with pre-prepared, scripted chat and sit and fake an interest, you can bet your bottom dollar that you won’t be getting a second date. 


But if you relax, talk naturally, show genuine interest, and allow yourself to show just a hint of vulnerability, you might actually make a connection. 


Check out JaJa Tequila’s billboard game:Gen Z sample Jaja Tequila Marketing Budget


This is a great blend of genuine, transparent, and funny, with a couple of lovely little asides to the reader. 


Does it showcase their tequila? No.

Does it highlight the benefits of their tequila? Nope. 

Does it even show their tequila? Negative.


Does it make me want to buy their tequila? You betcha. 


Or how about this from Oatly (everyone’s favourite overused copywriting example): 

Not a copywriting blog goes by without there being a reference to Oatly (or Innocent Smoothies), but there’s a reason for that – they’re bloody good at marketing. 


They’re innovative, they’re not afraid to take risks, and they’re genuine. 


Here they are taking a foul-mouthed negative review and turning it into a positive advert. But they’re also showing a bit of vulnerability, a bit of their soft underbelly, they’re highlighting a real fear that people think oat milk tastes disgusting. 


But they’re standing strong in their beliefs – and that’s something that truly resonates with Gen Z.


And on the topic of standing by your beliefs, promoting your company’s values is always a great way to go. 


Let’s take a look at Converse, who are known for being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. 


And boy oh boy, do they have the receipts to back it up. 


Having been releasing Pride collections every year since 2015, the company has also donated over $3 million to LGBTQIA+ organisations all over the world, recruits inclusively, and even has a ‘Converse Pride Network’. 


And on top of all of this, they showcase their commitment and values perfectly. 


Let’s take their 2023 “Proud to Be” campaign, which showcases authentic representation, love, and pride in who you are. 



And at the heart of this is the real key, especially with topics like this;


Don’t be insincere.


You have to actually back up your words with actions, not just words. Because people can sniff out any form of fake support like a bloodhound – so if you’re showcasing your values, don’t forget to put in the work and act on them too. 


The bottom line: Don’t be a patronising d*ck

Okay that’s not really the bottom line. But it also kinda is. 


Speaking to younger audiences isn’t akin to speaking with aliens. They’re people too, they just have slightly different worldviews, experiences, and upbringings. 


By just taking a moment to put yourself in their shoes, try to relate, and not be a patronising d*ck (oh maybe it really is the bottom line!), you can find a way to speak to Gen Z effectively – and without being super cringe.


And honestly? These lessons can probably be copy/pasted for when Gen Alpha come more into the scene. 


Just relate to other humans — who woulda thunk it, eh?


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Download our FREE, expert eBook to unravel the mysteries of high converting copy.


About the author

Rob Eades Copywriter
Rob, our in-house B2C copywriter, brings a passion for flair and a knack for a silly joke or two. With experience spanning everything from AI tech to delicious doughnuts, Rob knows how to get to the bottom of your copywriting woes.

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