There are few languages that are as expansive and descriptive as English. However, this richness is often a double-edged sword, particularly for writers in marketing communications.
Copy and content writers often unintentionally water down the impact of their messages with flowery approaches or overused words and phrases. Sharp, persuasive writing is critical for spurring interest and motivating action. It’s especially important today to eliminate filler words in web/social media channels as online readers quickly scan content to get main ideas rather than read entire articles or blocks of copy in depth.
Here are some helpful tips to shape up flabby writing in your marketing messages:
- Reduce adjectives
Instead of adding interest and flavor to messages, adjectives can often make them more cumbersome and unengaging to read. The key is to use adjectives sparingly—rather than inserting several bland ones in a sentence, use a more powerful example (instead of a nice sunny day, say a glorious day). Or use a potent noun instead of an everyday adjective/noun combination (a disaster instead of a bad situation).
And, no matter what, eliminate really and very permanently from your writing—these are lifeless words that add nothing to a message. If an adjective doesn’t change the meaning of your sentence when you leave it out, keep it out.
- Avoid the passive voice
Passive voice is a sentence construction that places emphasis on something being acted on rather than a subject acting on an object. This is usually evident when the subject is found near the end of a sentence:
This movie will be enjoyed by children of all ages.
The active voice version of this sentence would read:
Children of all ages will enjoy this movie.
Using passive voice puts distance between the subject and the action, which reduces the clarity and impact of your message. It also requires more words than an active voice construct. Occasional use of passive voice is fine but keep it contained to instances where you are specifically drawing attention to the object of an action (such as “the dinosaurs were wiped out by the impact of the meteor”).
- Don’t be shy about “Get”
Your goal as a marketing writer is to motivate people to act. And “Get” instantly puts readers into the mindset that they have the ability to obtain something that will improve their life if they act. Get two for the price of one. Get cleaner clothes in one wash. Get a slimmer waist in three weeks. It’s easy to see how “Get” brings a benefit you want within reach.
- Make it about the customerWhenever possible, use first-person language in your marketing. Address your audience as “you.” It makes readers, viewers, or listeners know that you’re talking directly to them—and captures their attention more effectively than a third-person approach. It also helps make your copy more conversational and friendly, and more likely to create a personal connection.
- Let them know time’s running out
We all hate missing out on stuff. If you can convey that availability is limited or a special deal expires soon, the faster you’ll get people to act. People want to feel rewarded if they’re one of the first 100 to respond or to make a purchase by the end of the week, so use words that create urgency and give them that opportunity to succeed.
- Spare the hyperbole
Is your service truly “world class?” Exactly how “revolutionary” is your widget? What is so “innovative” or “game changing” about your app? In our efforts to impress prospects, we sometimes use pretentious words and terms that end up being more effective in painting ourselves as windbags than accomplishing anything else.Nowadays it only takes a minute searching online to get a real user perspective on almost any offering. Unless you are actually introducing something that will transform your business category or marketplace, stay away from words and terms that suggest so.
- Ease worries
Everyone wants to know that they’re making the right decision. The more you can give customers peace of mind about parting with their hard-earned money, the sooner they’ll purchase from you. Words like “hassle-free,” “painless,” “no fuss,” “protected,” “safe,” “money-back guarantee,” and “risk-free” will help customers put more trust in you.
- Be specific
If you’re touting the durability of something, don’t just settle for “tough” or “long-lasting”—talk about what makes it durable. “Scratch-resistant,” “waterproof,” “torture-tested,” or “10-year guarantee” help customers envision how the product will stand up to the stress they’ll put on it. Use expressive terms that show how your product will be a hero.
Use language to advance your cause
Reduce complexity. Eliminate bombastic or wishy-washy terms. Guide audiences to take action. When you make your marketing communications informative and friction-free, you make the path to engagement and purchasing shorter as well.