Trending Now

Writing simply isn’t for bird brains

Universally, the biggest gasp I get when I meet people new to marketing, PR, or advertising is that most ad copy is restricted to a 6th grade reading level. I am going to use this blog post to reassure everyone that writing simply should mean writing elegantly and not writing simplistically, resulting in young adult fiction. While the reading ease is kept simple, we’re generally not writing to appeal to 12-year-olds. One of the biggest challenges that writers have across all disciplines is with interpretation. While ambiguity and nuance is favored by poets and novelists, creating copy that isn’t concise, clear, and succinct is a disservice to my clients.

What is required, at least online and when engaging bloggers, is messaging that endures the obligatory game of telephone that always happens when sharing between people. If you’ve never heard of telephone, I thought I would share this from Wikipedia:

The first player whispers a phrase or sentence to the next player. Each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next. The last player announces the statement to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first.

Social media is essentially a game of telephone, so it is critical to make sure the last player receives as intact a message as possible, no matter who is in the chain. No matter their background, native tongue, education, gender, cultural heritage, age, or disposition, our most important job is creating messaging that both injects a durable copy into the mind and consciousness of the consumer while also making it past the client’s review.

It isn’t easy, to be sure. If I choose a word that someone isn’t familiar with, they generally won’t take the time to explore the OED—not because of intellect but because people are busy, people have limited time and attention, and we don’t have them on salary. The time we have with them is generally limited to five minutes from opening an email pitch to when a blogger clicks on [Post] on their blog.

Gustave Flaubert was fastidious in his devotion to finding the right word, le mot juste, and so should we be because when you’re able to spend a little time distilling your message, the client’s message, or your company’s mission, then you’ll probably learn quite a lot about yourself as well as how you’re perceived.

I had been using the word premasticate in my talks about blogger outreach and online messaging because I like to think about how the kiss was developed, in a time before Gerber’s when baby food was made by a mother who would pre-chew food for her child. I also like to think of sea birds going out to sea, fishing for smelt, and then coming back and feeding their chicks through regurgitation. I loved these visuals and it always amused classes when I did my Blue-footed Booby mating dance (pictured above) and subsequent feeding of chicks as marketing metaphor. However, I now know that the visual is vile and is often considered infantilizing to bloggers.

Like I said, I am always listening and always learning. Progress not perfection.

When you think carefully about your core message, think about not just the ideas but also the consumability of each word (6th or 7th grade reading ease), you also realize that thinking this way can also be very useful for organic SEO and search.

How? Well, when you consider every word, you’ll start to think about how other people read and comprehend your brand. Have you ever listened to an interview of someone who has a highly-technical job? Their responses tend to include acronyms, nicknames, and references that are only understandable by other scientists, politicians, engineers, doctors, and lawyers. A good interviewer asks what those acronyms means, slows the interviewee down, asks them to explain what they’re saying. They call this unpacking your thinking, or layman’s terms.

Google runs on layman’s terms—all search does. And because search engines don’t use thesauri and are painfully explicit, it’s important to broaden your choice of words (search keywords). For example, a television is also popularly called a TV, a flatscreen, a plasma, a big screen, an HDTV—even a boob tube and idiot box. If you don’t include them all in your online copy—if you don’t know the potential lingua fanca of everyone, you really had better cover your bases.

In summary, the resulting “simple” of any copy you write for general consumption should be as accessible as possible—not simplistic. More like Hemingway—to the marrow—rather than of a lower fidelity. Writing like this requires and demands that we, instead, work harder, become more concise, and distill the larger prose, copy, corpus, text, into something more essential, more easily and universally comprehensible and intact.

It demands the we bear the brunt of the load, do all the hard work, instead of depending on others to parse what we’re on about. And, on that note, I am well aware that I didn’t follow any of my rules while writing this post. Let me know if I should have.

Feel free to email me at or call me at +1 202-351-1235

Learn more about Chris Abraham at Gerris digital.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Chris Abraham

Chris Abraham, digital strategist and technologist, is a leading expert in digital: search engine optimization (SEO), online relationship management (ORM), Internet privacy, Wikipedia curationsocial media strategy, and online public relations with a focus on blogger outreachinfluencer engagement, and Internet crisis response, with the digital PR and social media marketing agency Gerris digital. [Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call with me] A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and adviser to the industries' leading firms. Chris Abraham specializes in web technologies, including content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.  Chris Abraham was named a Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer by Forbes, #1 PR2.0 Influencer by Traackr, and top-10 social media influencers by Marketwire; and, for what it’s worth, Chris has a Klout of 79 the last time he looked. Chris Abraham started doing web development back in 1994, SEO in 1998, blogging in 1999, influencer engagement in 2003, social media strategy in 2005, blogger outreach in 2006, and Wikipedia curation in 2007. Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call. If you want to know the services that Chris offers check out Services If you want to work with Chris use the Contact Form You're welcome to follow me via Social Media You can learn more about Chris over in About Chris writes a lot so check out the Blog Chris offers webinars so check Events

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top Back to top