“Even the best-educated people don’t resent simple words — but simple words are the only words many people understand.”
This phrase replays in my head every time I write web copy, edit a blog post, or simplify a client’s lingo. (Thanks, The Copywriters’ Handbook). When people are tasked with writing something — website copy, a blog, an article — they love to write a lot of words. But here’s the thing: few people want to read a lot of words.
If I could give one piece of advice for people to better their writing, it’d be to keep it simple, stupid. Concise is key!
Easy, you might think. Less words = less time… right? Not usually. Oftentimes, writing in a simple and concise manner actually requires more work.
Simple words help you relay your message better than big words. When you force readers to sift through extra words to hunt for the key point, they’re less likely to pay attention. That means people bounce away from your copy before they give it a chance.
The Copywriters’ Handbook says: “People use big words to impress others, but they rarely do. More often, big words annoy and distract the reader from what the writer is trying to say.” The goal of your copy should be to communicate with a prospective buyer… not boost your own ego.
So how can your writing be more purposeful? Well, it probably starts with hiring someone to do it for you (at Ample, we do everything from web copy to blog posts to social media captions).
But if you’re not ready for that conversation yet, here are three places to start:
The only writing experience many people have are five-paragraph essays for school, and/or highly specialized technical memos. That leads people across industries to think writing = difficult.
But writing can be easy. It’s just like talking! As a copywriter, perhaps one of the most helpful things is a phone call or face-to-face meeting with a client. And I’ll let you in on a secret… sometimes, bits and pieces of my copy is just exactly what the client says in that phone call. The way people talk about their product is far more straightforward than the way they write about it.
If you want people to read your copy, it shouldn’t feel like work.
Here are a few words you can swap to make your copy easier on the reader:
A rule of thumb: only use jargon if 95 percent or more of your readers will understand it. If that target reader has to use even a little extra brain power to understand your product’s benefits, you’ve already lost them. They’ll likely just switch over to a company that explains it better.
That’s especially important when you think about the prospective customers who are reading your web copy. Let’s say you’re an HVAC company, looking to convince people to buy an air conditioner for their home. Unless you happen to sell to an air-quality expert, your target audience is not going to be an expert in air filtration. So don’t speak to them like they are.
Replace... “A lack of stormwater capturing infrastructure will result in catastrophic damages to your facilities. Detention retention is the most comprehensive singular stormwater capturing solution, complete with HDPE, arch and concrete solutions.”
With... “Your city could flood at any moment — leaving homes and businesses forever destroyed. Our cheap & durable rainwater-capturing tanks could save you.”
Replace… “Since 1990, our experienced data scientists have committed to preserving valuable information.”
With… “For decades, we’ve kept trust at the heart of what we do.”
Replace... “Long-term care insurance is designed to cover extended services and supports, such as custodial care, and your current health insurance might not qualify you for standard semiprivate nursing homes.”
With... “Don’t let your loved one’s needs break your bank. When they need extra support, you need a plan. Long-term care insurance makes it easier.”
First drafts — of anything — are always wordy. Always! That’s why your first draft shouldn’t be your final draft. Rewriting is the key to making things concise. Read, re-read and then read it again. The more you go over it, the more you’ll find to cut. Your work is not done until you have countless words on the cutting room floor.
Why is this so hard? Cutting the copy we worked long & hard to write can hurt, or at the very least make us feel we wasted our time. But the more you cut, the more your copy will shine.
Here are some examples of cuttable-words and how to replace them:
Have we convinced you to slash your web copy in half yet? Just kidding… sort of. At Ample, we specialize in telling your company’s story — in a way that’s simple, straightforward and concise. Learn more about our content marketing packages here.
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