Cher was right when she sang: “words are like weapons, they wound sometimes”.
But you may have been too distracted by her outfit in the video for “If I Could Turn Back Time” to notice that important lyric. Who knew Cher could teach us about copywriting and the power of words?
While your words may not wound a loved one, they can hurt your business if you don’t choose them wisely. In copywriting for business communications, words help create your brand identity, from your tagline to your web copy, blogs, newsletters and any other marketing content. Well written words compel your prospects to contact you, engage with you and buy from you. The wrong words can drive your potential customers away. And no one wants that!
A colleague who’s about to launch her business website told me recently that the web copy she got back from her copywriter was full of words in upper case and written in completely the wrong tone. She felt like the words were shouting at the reader and aggressive. “It just wasn’t me at ALL, so I ‘red-penned’ a lot of it,” she said.
Whether written or spoken, words can stir emotions, both positive and negative. They conjure images, too. Think about how some books are easier to “get into” than others. Some you can’t put down until you’ve read through to the last page, while with others, you don’t make it past the first chapter. That’s the power of words.
That same word power translates to your business content. Does your message pack a punch or leave your audience confused, bored, or alienated – and poised to click away from your site?
Here are 5 ways to add more punch to your copy:
- The power of ‘you’. This is the most important word in your marketing communications. It’s all about your client or prospect. Rather than rattling off your list of services upfront, address your prospect’s problems, then talk about how you can help. Using ‘you’ and ‘your’ liberally helps engage the reader – as if you’re speaking directly to them.
- It’s in your KISS. As in Keep It Simple, Stupid. If you get waylaid in your message, always ask yourself “does it address what’s in it for the client?” Short sentences are great, but too many make your copy sound stilted. Too long and your reader gets lost. And active voice usually trumps passive voice. Which is more powerful? “Your website’s impact is affected by the words you choose” or “Your word choice affects your website’s impact”.
- Less is usually more. AKA “economy of words”. Like the KISS principle, always opt for the clearest, most concise way to say something. Do you need a whole paragraph or will a couple of sentences do? I’m the first to admit I should take this advice. While I’m not much of a talker, I can get carried away when I write.
- Avoid business buzzwords and jargon. You know, terms like synergy, disruptive, leverage, pain point, traction. These can be off-putting to your prospects, as I wrote in a previous post. They may make you sound clued-in and authoritative, but many of them have become meaningless by overuse. And just because everyone else is using them, why should you? Isn’t the whole point of doing what you do to stand out from your competitors, not blend in?
- A dictionary and thesaurus are your friends. When you can’t find the words, these two sources are invaluable. With so many available online, it’s easy to consult them when you want to liven up your writing – and build your vocabulary at the same time!
While we can delete and edit online copywriting, we can’t edit a brochure after printing, or fix an email once it’s sent. And as Cher knows only too well, we can’t turn back time. So choose your words wisely.