Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll understand… but to involve your audience you need to use the right language – the tone and vocabulary that your audience works with and relates to.
The purpose of any piece of writing is to affect someone’s thoughts and thus their actions. Whether it is a work of fiction that engages and entertains or a technical document that informs and educates, the aim of the writer is to make the audience think what the writer wants them to think.
The difference within language
The difference in language between a bodice ripper Mills & Boon novella will be very different to the installation instructions for a replacement window.
One will use a wide variety of emotive adjectives – beautiful, husky, looming, strong, kind – while the other won’t.
One will leave some things to the imagination while the other will make sure that nothing is missed out.
One will be written to be a specific length and one will be written to say what needs to be said and no less or no more.
The language in most marketing and sales material will tread a middle path between these extremes. Judicious use of adjectives can add an emotive edge to your message while the use of concise, clear technical terms will give your message authority.
Language to avoid
The right language will avoid those things which get in the way of audience understanding. Readers’ and listeners’ receptiveness will be impaired by words that are unfamiliar, vague, uninformative or ambiguous.
Such words will make a reader have to think unnecessarily, which interrupts the flow of their thoughts. Poor syntax and grammar will also make an audience stop to try to figure out what is being said, so avoid clumsy phrases and unnatural rhythms.
Stopping and starting makes reading more time-consuming and more difficult and thus makes the message less easy to understand. Bear in mind that the aim of writing is to affect the audience’s thinking and then their actions, so make sure the writing gives the reader a clear uninterrupted run.
Spelling mistakes and punctuation errors will not only stem the flow of the writing but will also, arguably more importantly, demote your product and company credibility to a large degree; in many instances your product description is standing in for your actual product and errors in the description will be seen as errors in your product.
Every industry, particularly construction, uses terms that are part of a longstanding and rich culture and history. Using those terms properly reveals understanding and empathy. Getting them wrong or misusing them will significantly undermine your sales and marketing efforts.
It is easy to allow errors and the wrong choice of words to become part of your marketing writing. Choosing the right language with an appropriate tone and vocabulary for your audience will improve your chances of marketing success.
Rick Osman is a CIMCIG committee member and a judge for the Construction Marketing Awards. He is also a director of Highwire, an agency which specialises in online solutions for the construction industry, see www.hotel-standards.com. You can find out about construction marketing events at www.cimcig.org.