Simplicity: Use Small Words – Part I
“It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear” – Frank Luntz
When crafting a message for your business, it is important to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If you were your own customer, how would you receive the message you are providing? People often craft a message in a way that *they* would like to read it, not taking into account their audience. In this series of blog posts, we will dive into what makes a message great, and look into the art of crafting messages.
Author Frank Luntz’s book, Words that Work outlines several core ideas in how to best make sure your message is heard, as you want it to be heard. Today, we are covering his first rule, “Simplicity.” and how you can use it in your day to day communications – with a focus on websites.
When writing content for your website, don’t get bogged down by using jargon and complicated sounding “buzzwords”. Simplicity is key.
To quote Luntz, “Using a long word when a short one would suffice tends to raise suspicions: What is this guy trying to sell me? Does he have an ulterior motive?” The most effective language clarifies rather than obscures.“
Remember, short words create credibility and are more memorable to the reader. Many words can be similar in “physical” length, but much shorter in “mental” length.
Consider the following terms:
Now consider these alternatives for the above:
Most people will agree that even some of the words in the second list are “physically” just as long, you identify much quicker with them and understand what they are trying to say without having to stop and think about the message. For example, for your e-Commerce site description, consider trying “A mixed selection” instead of “A miscellaneous assortment” when referring to a grab bag or mixed item product.
When writing copy, you might simply be unaware that a better word choice exists. We don’t expect every person to have memorized a Thesaurus. Luckily, several free resources exist online to aid you in crafting the right message. One of them is here. – where you can input the larger word and find a suitable smaller one. This is another good resource (and where the previous examples come from) for when you run into a really complex sounding word and need to make it more accessible.
We hope this has been helpful in thinking about how you write about your company and products. The art of wordsmithing not only requires the ability to identify what words to use when, but also an understanding of human psychology and social context. Once the art is mastered, however, you will find it much easier to drive sales and acquire new customers.
Words that Work, can be found at any major retailer that sells books (ISBN 978-1401309299.)
Next post we will cover the second principle in Words that Work.
Using short sentences to craft a message.