Why Word Choices Can Make Such A Difference

Male writing in notebook next to laptop computer
Image credit: thanks to and the photo copyright holder.

Good writing isn't easy to do. To write persuasive, effective communications that helps create profitable outcomes for businesses is arguably harder still. Yet every writing challenge can be overcome. For every business or organisation, there is always a better way to communicate.

So in a sense, I can understand why many folks — those who, shall we say, have a strong technical bias, and even some Internet "gurus" — just want to believe that technology, web design, and the timing of your offer are more important, than the how you say your message.

Problem is, I suggest that "It just ain't so."

How we say what we want to say is vital to the success of our presentation and its outcome.

"It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.
George Orwell, from his book, 1984.

Should You Believe What I'm Suggesting?

Regular readers will know that on many occasions throughout this website archive, I continue to argue why you should take all the extra time, effort, and understanding you need, so that you can craft precise communications, more targeted relevant messages.

Only by striving to gain a deep understanding of your topics, goals, and developing careful attention to detail, can you have a better chance to deliver outstanding benefits and value both as a writer, and more importantly, help provide sensational results for those wonderful folks who may hire you for your skills of creating magic with words.

Nevertheless, as a strong believer in the power of doing your own research, I still say to friends and colleagues:

"Don't take my word for it — carry out your own tests."

Fair enough.

Yet even so, I do appreciate, not everyone has the time, money, interest, or inclination to perform their own mini-research campaign.

And one of the reasons you're a member of this group is that for now, you're happy for someone else to check out some things for you, therefore, simply save time — your most precious resource (mine too).

For that to work for you however, all you have to do is trust that what I say here has some value, that can work for you. You can then read, consider, and determine what makes sense to you. 

Thank You To The University Of Illinois And Others

Therefore, to make things a little easier, below, we seem to have yet more evidence that words, content, what you say and how you say it — whether spoken or written — can make a huge difference to sales.

For example, let's sweep back in time a little. For the purposes of our test today, the actual dates don't matter much.

Why: we walking bipeds have primal drivers that get our attention and focus our minds. Yet human nature appears to have essentially remained the same for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years

But don't give up on humanity: we must believe that we can get better little by little. Even though we may not yet be smart enough to make huge intelligence leaps, every new generation gives me more hope.

So let's explore one enlightening instance that tells us more about ourselves.

If we refer to Reader's Digest, July 2003, p182, we can see the results of a study carried out by scientists at the University of Illinois. So just what did they find?

  • In a nutshell: a restaurant made two comparisons while labelling dishes using geographic, sensory or nostalgic labels.
  • Examples: when using "grandma's zucchini cookie", "traditional Cajun", "Satin chocolate pudding", sales rose 27% when compared to the same menu items that used the more conventional (read boring) food names: "red beans with rice", "chocolate pudding" and "zucchini cookies."

Handy Tip: a reasonable conclusion is that we seem to respond better to text that links our senses with familiar mental imagery and to the connections that we know, love and trust.

If you're serious about getting better results from your sales materials, please re-read and think about the previous sentence and how you can apply that to your writing, visual (video), and communication challenges.

After the first "wow", using imagery alone, whether still or moving, can seem flat, without depth or real meaning. However, when we combine the senses, sorcery happens.

So, in your writing, why not evoke the senses and create mental pictures with short, snappy, precise accompanying text?

Depending on certain key factors, such as:

  • The needs of your project. Plus ...
  • A deep understanding and appreciation of what drives your audience or readership ...

... the length or amount of text you use may not be a key issue.

Though to write website articles that provide worthwhile value for your readers, if you want to provide unique, uncommon depth of coverage, you'll naturally choose to put in some extra work, include more careful thought, then your article word-count will rise naturally. 

Why Automated Writing Tools Don't Always Help 

If persausion and reader engagement is our primary goal, I suggest, view automated writing tools with some suspicion. Spelling-checkers, grammar-checkers, and more, benefit from human control.

Why: you can end up writing materials that score well in so-called writing quality tests, or within a traditional educational environment, yet, fail miserably when tested in real-world scenarios.

You can remove all "passive text", all presumed unnecessary adverbs, rewrite and simplify so-called "overly complex" sentences, to create a written piece that scores well, free from so-called errors.

However, in achieving your higher scores, you might be sending yourself down a writer's rabbit hole that leads to nothing good.

One problem with automated writing tools is that while sometimes they can help you write a school essay that gets you a good score from your teacher, back in the real world, a writing aid may simply not be good enough to understand or appreciate the human connection.

We can simplify so much that we lose the soul of the writing.

If you don't believe me, try inputting a few choice text excerpts from some of the great writers throughout history into an automated writing tool, and smile at their low writing scores. 

Moreover, in the coming years, we may find that many early / current Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are likewise so ill-equipped, limited, stunted. Being human is complicated. Perhaps only people can truly understand people.

So we can write from the heart, for that is where what you may share is more relevant, less automated, gloriously flawed, and certainly less perfect.

Surely, your writing should be fluid, relevant, fresh, not staid or stuffy. 

In addition, if we don't occasionally break some rules, we risk blending into the "great average" — possibly the worst place for any writer to land who wants to make a difference.

However, never say never. Flexibility is a good word. Testing is not just for coders. For writers too, testing our presumptions is key: we can be wrong, and often are. So we can create another tweaked version. Then test the impact of each version again. Test some more. Strive to identify what makes a difference, what works better. And keep testing, measuring outcomes.

When Less Is More

Sometimes, having less text gets better results. Not everyone is a reader. In our frantic, rushed world, many people can be more impatient than ever. If that is correct, we could argue, that's an even greater reason to slow down, switch off, and read more.

Here's a thought-provoking idea: perhaps all the answers to every problem in the entire world can at one time or another be found in the written word. The human brain is indeed amazing.

Or, put another way, whether we consider ourselves readers, or not, at some point in our lives, we're going to come up against something so big, so important — to us personally — and the answers to our dilemma may only be available in the written word.

If you determine that most of your project readers, viewers, visitors are probably impatient, or easily distracted, you can get to the point quickly, fast, and make a lasting impression, as soon as your words impact brain cells. 

For "rapid, high impact projects", you'll want to make a memorable impression without delay. However, whatever you do needs to stand on its own feet, cause pause for thought, have value. Making outlandish claims won't work. You need convincing evidence ... with speedy legs.

When More Is Better

For other projects, writing a lot of considered, useful, thought-provoking text can deliver a more favourable outcome.

Key Tip: one of the benefits of the written language is that longer text excerpts can slow down the pace of understanding, to allow for the building of deeper, more meaningful connections, consideration, and evaluation.

Learners and those who want to get ahead, tend to pay more attention to documents that go further, deeper, stimulate thinking.

If we're willing to allow ourselves the luxuries of patience, applying a little extra effort, and exercising some persistence, a longer, engaging article can force us to slow down. Pauses for reflection have value. Perhaps today, we need slowing down more than ever before.

What we write first though must captivate and engage our readers, to make and build that all-important "first contact" connection. Then we can perfect how to keep the connection alive all through our communication.

While a video can give us an instant, sometimes impressive snapshot, for all its visual impact, a video will always only provide an at-face-value hint, one scene at a time, and usually only one interpretation.

That's why, if we want to build and form deeper, significant connections with readers, visitors, and yes even viewers, text and written language seems to offer a great way to go as the central hub of your theme, topic, plan.

A sobering point to note: even though hundreds, thousands, millions, or even billions of people may read your message, as the author, you seek to connect in some way to each of those readers as an individual, one person at a time.

Without doubt, what we put in our text forms the bedrock of any message that is worthy of anyone's attention.

However, the words we choose and the imagery we conjure up in those thought spaces that seem to magically flow from our words, can make all the difference.

Just ask grandma!

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