Write like a 5th grader to make more money

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” – Albert Einstein.

Let me explain what he means: Your copy should be #basic. Overly-complicated copy is filled with adjectives, adverbs, countless clauses, technical terms and business jargon. This is costing you money.

The science behind it is hiding right under your fingertips and within your favorite word processing software. Microsoft Word is equipped with this fun little tool called the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, which is a formula that determines how easy-to-read your copy is to the average American.

The idea was born of the “plain language” movement in the 1960s, which itself was an attempt to increase the comprehensibility of government documents. It has since been fleshed out to become a very useful metric for marketers and advertisers to tailor copy to their targeted audience.

Brand experts will tell you that the key to writing a killer slogan or tagline is for it to be memorable, emote positivity, and differentiate the brand from its competitors. All of this is true, but what is missing is the simplicity of language.

Are writers allergic to simplicity? They shouldn’t be, considering the most successful slogans are also the most plain: Nike’s “Just do it.” McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It.” Visa’s “It’s everywhere you want to be.” 

Keep it simpleThis is vital to ensuring that your brand doesn’t become trapped and die in its primary channel or media. How does a brand come to life across all its touch points and in a consistent manner? Through consistency in product design and software – all of which translate to a cohesive experience.

There are visible and physical languages, said Michael Lenz, Director, Global Brand Experience and Design at Cisco, but the human touch – using words to fulfill the brand promise – is often what is missing.

You don’t change your identity when switching jobs or locations, so why would your business change its voice depending on the channel? The marketing. The labels. The colors. All should deliver on your brand’s promise. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then take into account that the average Cisco user has 3,200 touch points. It hasn’t always been easy for them, either.

They knew there was a problem when one customer wrote-in, “I am a solid Cisco fan, but how many hours do they expect me to waste trying to understand their shit?” Yikes.

The problem was that no one understood what the hell Cisco was talking about. They had to undergo a massive overhaul to remove any engineering or product developer “speak” within their copy. It took several revisions, but the resulting copy became short and relevant; bold and human, Lenz said.

No one wants to read copy that is “too” anything: too educational, technical or clunky. Have you ever read Insurance policy packets? Painful. French author Marcel Proust? Brutal.

The next time you sit down to write, imagine that you’re a musician or composer. Consider that writing words on the page is no different than scribbling down musical notes to draft a song. Words, sentences, paragraphs and pages also need a melody and an obvious beat to them.

So, channel Taylor Swift the next time you’re tasked with drafting an article, marketing email or advertising copy. Her songs are so successful because they’re repetitive (most people must see or hear phrases eight-to-nine times before it sticks), but mostly because they’re simple.

 

Simplify your readability in these four steps:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button Office button image, and then click Word Options.
  2. Click Proofing.
  3. Make sure Check grammar with spelling is selected.
  4. Under When correcting grammar in Word, select the Show readability statistics check box.
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