3 Easy Ways to Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say (Always)

Estimated reading time: 14 minute(s)

Just because you’re Tweeting on an iPhone X doesn’t mean you can ignore age-old laws of effective communication. Our guest writer Victoria Fann explains enduring principles every B2B marketer needs to know for our words to have a positive impact. 

There is a Russian proverb that says, “Once a word goes out of your mouth, you can never swallow it again.” Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever, but possibly not forgotten.” That is the power of words to work magic or do harm. So much depends on the speaker or writer of those words, but perhaps more depends upon the way they are received or heard. The interpretation of the receiver is all—and therein lies the misunderstanding.

I’m sure you can relate. We’ve all sent emails and texts or left voicemails we regret, wishing seconds later we could take them back.

In the world of B2B marketing, things can be different. We are (typically) more grounded by time, intention, and professionalism. Not only do we want our words to be understood, but also remembered, perhaps even quoted.

Our challenge isn’t laziness or impulsiveness with our words but rather that words, in general, are less in the spotlight than they were in the past. Marketing, these days, is dominated by photos and videos, slides and infographics, listicles and captions.

With such limited attention spans, what we say and how we say it are more important than ever.

Confusion or misinterpretation are death to a business.

It is with that awareness, that I offer you three guiding principles for your communications: clarity, brevity and flow.

1. Clarity

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

~ Albert Einstein

What we send forth in our words is only as good as the meaning derived from them by the person or persons receiving them. While we don’t have total control over how our words will be interpreted, the more concise and precise we can be in crafting our messages, the better the chance we have that our intentions will shine through.  

With that in mind, here are a couple of tips to consider when writing marketing copy.  

Be sincere. No one likes to be manipulated. They can feel it when you’re trying too hard, and you will lose them. Take a few minutes to tune into what you find interesting about the topic and then write it using a straightforward approach.

Avoid jargon. Speak your audience’s language, not the language of marketing. Connect with them by sharing what you know with conviction, using words as the means to do just that.

2. Brevity

“Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” ~ Mark Twain

It’s better to err on the side of too little than not enough. Less to generate; less to edit, less to clean up later. Wordiness can be due to deep insecurity that’s thinly veiled by long-drawn out explanations.  

Get to the point.

Many nonfiction books these days only have a few gems of unique wisdom. The rest is repetitive fluff and filler. Those gems would have been better conveyed in an article. In other words, don’t take an article to say what could be shared in a blog post. Don’t take a blog post to say what could be shared in a paragraph or tweet. And so on.

Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Give your reader room to breathe rather than trying to stuff a 7-course meal of rich words down their throats. Think of clusters of words as bite-sized appetizers or small plates that can be nibbled with pleasure.

Remove any and all unnecessary words, but especially adverbs and adjectives. The more words you put in the way of making your point, the higher the odds are that you’ll lose your reader. If most people are skimming an article on their phones, chances are they are somewhere where they can easily be distracted. The antidote to distraction is to hook their attention with something that interests them enough to stay engaged.

Flow

“Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer.”  ~ Shirley Polykoff

We can learn alot about how to achieve flow in writing by paying attention to the way we speak. The majority of the time, we simply say what we think and share what we know. It’s not a struggle, nor does it require that we plan what we’re going to say. Instead, words are expressed unfiltered.

To find this same rhythm with writing, you can simply write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend about something that interests you. Don’t “try” to write, just write and see where the ideas want to go. The more natural it feels, the better it will be for your audience.

Write like you speak. Make is conversational. To determine if your writing is too complicated, read it out loud, record it and listen to it. You’ll be able to hear where there are unnecessary words and where the pacing slows down.

Add a touch of credibility by quoting experts. It adds just enough, but not too much, spice to your writing. It’s fun to learn what others have to say on the subject.

You can filter all of your communications using these guiding principles, which will build trust with your audience. Once you earn that trust, you will have opened the door to your audience’s greatest asset: their attention. That attention is what all your future communication (and sales) depends on—it’s your job to make it worth their time. 

Need a hand crafting copy that makes a genuine connection with the people you serve? Give us a shout.

 

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Paul Rosevear

What do you get when you combine the soul of a musician with the mind of a writer? Copy that sings. And for the last decade, that’s precisely what Paul has delivered for global brands, bootstrap startups, and everything in between. When he’s not hard at work crafting top-notch communications, you can find Paul hanging with his wife and two young daughters, singing and playing guitar for The Vice Rags, or roaming the streets in search of the nearest slice of pizza.

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