Are you accidentally frustrating your prospects with the wrong words?

Back when I worked in the banking world, I constantly had to paddle my way through a muddy river of acronyms and corporate lingo. It was like a mystery decipher game. Where was my decoder ring?

I always suspected that somebody got paid a lot of money to make up that nonsense. I bet they felt pretty smart. The problem was, it didn’t help make anyone more productive or successful. Kind of the opposite, actually.

Hey, guess what. Industry-speak doesn’t always work with your employees (evident by the eye rolling), and it never works on your customers. It’s not that they aren’t smart enough. On the contrary. It’s just that they’re busy knowing their own business. Don’t make them learn yours.

“Your written content is only useful if it communicates its desired message to the intended audience.”

Never assume that others understand your business language.

Those code words that are meant to shortcut communications within your industry are a foreign language to everyone else. There are two scenarios:

  1. You make them feel stupid and they choose not to do business with you.
  2. They pretend they know what you’re talking about and you end up with misunderstandings.

Your written content is only useful if it communicates its desired message to the intended audience. A message misunderstood is a waste of time and resources, and can create frustration. Frustration is the last thing you want to create! It neither motivates staff, nor sells your product.

When creating written content, always keep the following tips in mind:
  1. Spell it out. Avoid using acronyms or “lingo” until you’ve spelled out the full meaning at least once. And only use it if necessary.
  2. Talk to me like I’m 5. Or at least like I’m a fifth grader. Don’t talk down to people, but use words that are easy to read and understand. One measurement often used by copywriters is something called the Flesch-Kincaid (FK) Score. It’s a tool used to measure readability of a written piece, expressed as a grade level. Personally I seldom use it, because I naturally write at a fifth grade level. Remember, readability is an important key to understanding the message.
  3. Be a good friend. Keep a conversational tone and your prospect will see you as someone that understands them and has their best interest at heart. Be kind and helpful in order to build the trust that bridges your reader from prospect to customer.
  4. Use shorter sentences. Long, run on sentences, although they may contain much valuable information, can sometimes lose the attention of, or become a burden to, the busy, distracted reader, thereby losing hope of your message making its intended impact. In other words, Long sentences are burdensome. To make your point, keep it short.
  5. Write for the skimmers. The truth is, most people don’t actually read, they scan. The headline is the first, and most important element. Make it awesome. After that, subheads, followed by the summary at the bottom. If they see value in that much, they’ll hopefully go back and read the rest. Make it worth their time.
  6. Tell me what I need to know. Show your reader they’ve come to the right place. To overload your reader with unsolicited information can cause a mental road block (unless it’s engaging and entertaining, of course). Give the necessary information with a link to further investigate as desired.
  7. Tell me what to do. Your goal is to cause an action step. Click here, buy now, fill out this form, pick up the phone, etc. Just say so. Any time your reader is unsure, the default will be to do nothing.

Your message should tell your prospect that you can help fill a need, solve a problem, and/or bring relief from some pain and frustration they have. Nobody needs additional frustration in their lives, nor do they like to feel stupid. Just tell them what they need to know and what to do next.

Most importantly, your message must provide value to the reader, and to do that, you must speak their language, not yours. 

So if you need help with defining and crafting your messaging or with any marketing materials, PICK UP THE PHONE.  Seriously though, I’d love to talk to you about your needs, so call me. Or send me a message here.


Cindy White is a freelance copywriter specializing in helping businesses reach their target markets for increased sales and improved client relations through compelling, well-crafted copy. Initial consultations are always free of charge. 

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