I’m not sure if this is a rant or just sharing a frustration I see from time to time.
I do have a fascination with words, like definitions, origins, and how funny the English language can be.
Growing up in a single parent home with my brothers and sisters you learned to appreciation what you had and make do with what you had. We made many trips to the library for books as many of my siblings were book worms as well. But on many occasions I would enjoy just picking up the dictionary to just pick new words and learn about them. I know weird right?
I occasionally make fun about the words we use and people that try to fit in big words when they can. Jokingly I comment why do people use such big words when they could use more diminutive words instead. That being said I think there is a time and a place for large words which leads me to today’s “rant” or copy tip.
When writing something for the masses or something for casual reading you want to write in a simpler format. I’ve heard it said that you should write at a 5th grade level so that anyone can understand what you are saying.
To me I think a good rule of thumb is to write in such a way that people don’t stumble on the words trying to figure out what you are saying. For example I’m currently reading a book, and it’s written in a way that you can read at a fairly fast pace until.. THE WORD. In this case “the word” was “cacophony” used in this sentence. “…surrounded by a cacophony of voices…”.
Now mind you I knew the meaning of the word but it messed up my flow all together. It made me stop dead in my tracks and start wondering why THAT word? Why throw a visual speed bump into an other wise flowing passage? I’m not sure I’ll ever know unless for some reason I decide to write the author to ask 😉
But after trying to shake off the why I had to put the book down for a bit and made me think we do the same thing in our website copy and emails. Many times we use words that cause a mental speed bump in the potential customers thought process that may make them not finish reading or confuses them on what you are trying to really say and they decide to leave and not buy. Or just close the email message unfinished.
My “tip” for you is to read or re-read your sales copy, banner add, email text OUT LOUD. I know this seems odd but if while reading it and you stumble on any words yourself chances are your readers will too. It is well worth taking the extra minute or two to do this exercise and improve the flow of your copy and get the results you really want.