Updated: Sep 23, 2021
“Your word choice has distorted the premise of your argument. Review my comments and resubmit.”
This was the feedback my lecturer gave me after submitting my first ever assignment as an English undergraduate. Because I had no idea how ‘Woolf portrayed the superficiality of social conventions’, I thought I’d disguise my incompetence with some fancy words.
My plan backfired and, instead of abusing happy hour down the student boozer that night, I plotted up in my halls of residence untangling a drunken mess of nonsense language.
To this day, I’ve never had to call upon my surface knowledge of Woolf (apart from that one time in a pub quiz), but I did learn one valuable lesson from that assignment…
~stick to words that are stupid simple to understand~
This sounds all too obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many of us slip into a non-human, corporate version of ourselves when armed with a keyboard.
Instead of keeping things simple, we feel obliged to stuff our copy with technical language, loaded with complex words and industry acronyms that are meaningless to anyone outside the circle.
And although many of us are hesitant to say goodbye to this style of writing, there’s too much to be said for the power of simplicity.
Let me show you what I mean…
Here’s a made-up example of web copy for a company called Perfect Build Ltd:
‘At Perfect Build Ltd, we provide turnkey solutions for any project across the South East. Our dedicated team provide a comprehensive level of service, synergising best value schemes with the building needs of our clients.’
Whilst the word choice in this copy would probably win a game of Scrabble, it doesn’t win the attention of the reader.
Words like ‘turnkey’ and ‘synergising’ are the main offenders – they don’t mean anything to anyone. I mean, can you imagine a friend asking you about your business, and you respond using those words?
They’d likely reply under a curious chuckle, “you alright, Dave?”
Now, let’s remove the fancy stuff and see how a simplified version sounds:
‘At Perfect Build Ltd, we understand the difference between a house and a home. That’s why all of our builds are designed around you, your lifestyle, and the everyday demands of modern, family life.’
Much easier to read, right? That’s because it uses ordinary human language to hit the needs and interests of the readers right off the bat. In doing so, it keeps its versatility which means everyone can instantly understand what your business is about.
A quick and easy way to check whether your web copy has the power of simplicity is to read it out loud. Listen to what you’re saying. Does it sound like you, or does it sound like you’ve been possessed by a corporate demon?
If you need a second opinion, let me know.
Three more easy ways to power-up your copy:
- Boost your identity by telling your story.
- Swap the 'we' and 'we're' for 'you' and 'you're'.
- Make it easy to respond – where’s the call to action?
Haven’t got time to check your copy, but know it needs a makeover? Get in touch and let me take care of things.