George Orwell once said “never use a long word when a short one will do”.
Regarded as one of the greatest literary figures and writers of the 20th century, I’m inclined to take his advice.
But how many of us really do this?
Technical and business writing is often muddled with buzzwords, jargon and complicated sentences that confuse, rather than motivate and educate.
Sure, there has to be some industry lingo in a technical document such as an academic paper. After all, you’re dealing with a very specific technical subject aimed at research professionals in the same industry.
But you still need to write in a way that engages other academics. We get bored like everyone else.
Sadly, scientists and marketers of scientific instrumentation and high-technology think using large complicated words that would baffle Albert Einstein is the only way to communicate.
Remember, the goal is always to convey a message.
And the best way to convey your message is to simplify everything you’re trying to say. How well you do this comes down to the words you put on the page.
Simplicity is one of the golden rules when it comes to writing well. And this doesn’t just mean writing novels or writing for magazines and newspapers.
Business and technical writing can also benefit because these forms of communication are often stiff, corporate-like and formal. This is unfortunate because we need people to read our marketing communications in order to move them through the sales cycle.
The sad results of muddled writing
What happens if you don’t simplify your writing?
Well for starters, think about how many sales you might be losing because your website copy isn’t converting.
Or because your prospects aren’t reading your emails, letters, or other communications.
Maybe the headline or lead of your copy is weak, causing your reader to ball up the letter and hurl it into the nearest waste bin.
You can see the need for clear and concise writing, yes?
If you bore your readers or make it difficult for them to understand your message, then you’ve just wasted your time writing it. Failing to go through your writing and edit it down means you’re probably losing sales in the long run.
Shani Raja, a journalist who wrote and edited for publications like The Wall Street Journal and The Economist says that simplicity is what separates the exceptional writers from everyone else.
Now a writing coach, he encourages the use of short, easy-to-understand words and sentences.
Simplified writing equals more sales in the long run
The easiest way to improve your writing is by simplifying it.
Simplifying means ridding your copy of any filler and unnecessary words. It means shortening sentences and paragraphs. Using simple words to convey a message makes your copy easier to read.
So get rid of useless words, stick to short familiar phrases and try to simplify ideas as much as possible. No one has ever complained “you know what, I don’t like this white paper. It’s too easy to read.”
Always ask yourself: “What am I trying to say”? And then say it plainly.
Take the following example:
Most refractory coatings to date exhibit a lack of reliability when subject to the impingement of entrained particulate matter in the propellant stream under extended firing durations
Even most technical folk would be scratching their heads after reading a sentence like that.
But when we simplify it down, it reads:
The exhaust gas eventually chews the coating of existing ceramics.
I think you’ll agree, this simplified version is much easier to read.
This is the simplicity you need to strive for when writing marketing communications that sell scientific and high-tech solutions. That way, you’ll engage more readers and more quickly move them towards a buying decision
So the bottom line is: get your copy under control. Focused writing sells, plain and simple.
We’ll talk more about the power of words and improving your writing in future issues. For instance, I haven’t talked about clarity, which is another hallmark of great writing.
For now, start with simplifying everything you write. This one technique will drastically improve your marketing copy.
Until next week,