Why (The Right) Words Matter, More Than Ever Before

Does your heart sink when you read yet another article or post that opens with, “in these unprecedented times…”?

“I wish everyone would stop banging on about the ‘new normal’,” a friend commented wearily over Zoom last week.  The conversation led to making a list of our most hated corona-isms, which included “pause and reflect”, “it’s OK not to be OK”, and “stay safe”.

Back when I was a struggling creative writer (OK, I still am – what of it?), I was told by my tutor that readers will mentally skim over clichés.  They’ve read those words so many times, he said, that they no longer have any impact or meaning.

So, do yourself a favour, and cut that sombre opening paragraph about the world having changed out of all recognition “due to Covid-19”.  Because you’ll be getting straight to the point, your words will pack a cleaner punch – and besides, “these challenging times” really don’t need explaining.

“I’m still here for you”

Customers need basic, human-sounding reassurance during a time like this. 

We seek comfort from the familiar, which is why we turn to our family and friends when the shit whacks the fan. 

But imagine running to your best friend in a time of crisis, and instead of crushing you in a gorgeous hug, they just stared emptily and said, “your welfare is of the utmost importance to me, during these unprecedented times.”

It might sound strange, but I’ve found the ‘excessive formality’ route chosen by a lot of big companies upsetting, because formality does a fantastic job at creating (non-social) distance.    Every new email containing a “statement from our CEO” seemed to make what was already an alien situation feel even weirder.   

So, talk to your customers like you’re an actual person, and they’re actual people.  Reassure them that you’re still around, and explain any business changes in a clear, confident, and caring way.

(A great way to reduce formality in written communications is to read the words out loud.  If they sound weird coming out of your mouth, find a more natural way to say them).

Make ‘em laugh (if you can)

In Italy, Burger King released an ad for their new ‘Social Distancing Whopper’…

“with triple onions, that keep(s) others away from you”.

Recently, I listened to an online seminar about behavioural science in advertising (my new favourite ‘thing’). 

The 200-or-so-strong audience were polled about the kind of ads we wanted to see during the pandemic, and we overwhelmingly opted for ‘ones that make us laugh’.

Laughter gets people through crises.  It’s why the First World War trenches bristled with gallows humour (Ypres soldiers even created a satirical newspaper, The Wipers Times, from an abandoned printing press), and why Hollywood responded to the Great Depression by releasing more comedy films.

So, don’t be afraid of weaving a bit of much-needed fun and lightness into your words.  Not only are your readers likely to appreciate the laugh, it’ll help instil some of that confidence I mentioned earlier.

Can I help with your words this summer?  Whether you’re in need of a sparkly new profile, copy that’s catnip to customers, or a niche article about the importance of clogs, I can help. 

Find out more here.