confused reader

What’s in a Word?

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.

About Frank Deardurff

My Passion is my Faith, Family, Love for Music, Art and Photography. I myself have delivered many of my own training courses as well as webinars and teleseminars for many other coaching groups. I’ve also published a book titled “50 Biggest Website Mistakes”. Having many decades of experience in various forms of graphics and IT experience and aspects of online business, my vision is to help others overcome their fears and frustration with taking their businesses online and reach the next level of success.


  1. Cathy Goodwin on June 10, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Well said! I love the way you slid in the word “diminutive.”

    Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero encourages her students to read copy aloud. Perry Marshall once said we should *sing* our adwords ads.

  2. Sherwood Tucker on June 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Yes, what you say is true for copywriting…
    However, it really depends on your audience eh?
    Further, I think most have lost the ability to use the correct word tos say what they really mean… the word that best conveys the meaning…
    For example, take the word mordacious.
    Synonyms are:

    but they all have slightly different connotations…
    I have been known to be a bit of a
    sesquipedalian who speech,at times, is salubrious, and other times lugubrious…
    Pedantic to some, loquacious to others, it is all in fun and most get a laugh and some even learn a new word…:)
    Finally, I sadly fear vocabulary is a lost art… at least for the next few hundred years :))

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