It’s not exactly news to most of us.
What’s interesting is that I am seeing more and more about language now. It seems the *way* we talk to people is becoming as important as what we are saying.
All content strategists are now sitting around nodding sagely. We’ve all been saying language choices in government – and all – comms is very important for ages. And actually, this sort of thing has been said throughout history.
Just in recent history, Winston Churchill wrote to his staff telling them not to use verbose terms. President Clinton wrote a ‘Plain Writing in Government’ memorandum and President Obama made the ‘United States Plain Writing Act of 2010’ law.
All the words
The way we write is important – and it’s not just about banning words that are jargon-y or legalistic. It’s all the words, on all the channels. You can no longer know where your content goes, you can’t control who is reading it and if you are really lucky, your audience is on a multitude of channels: twitter, facebook, your site… anywhere. Your organisation can communicate in many ways and many organisations have different teams with different ideas, styles and tones for web writing, comms writing, letter writing, internal comms etc. When you have one user coming to your content in different ways, it needs to be coherent.
There’s a stack of blogs and information out there on how to write for social media, getting attention and how to make your site successful but there’s a few golden rules for whatever you do, on every channel.
1. Understanding is more important than writing
Most organisations don’t want their audience to think ‘lovely writing’ and not much more when reading about their product or service. It’s far more important the audience understands the content so they can make a decision.
Reading isn’t as important as understanding – you can read loads but it’s understanding that you act on even if it is just remembering a new piece of information. So when you are having that difficult conversation about language, it should be more around comprehension – not the individual words.
2. Tone and style is important
3. Plain English
4. Be consistent
If you use a sentence like ‘apply for a stack of wonderful candy’ on your site and ‘claim your 500kg of sweets’ on Twitter, don’t be surprised if your audience is confused and thinks it is a different offer. Consistent doesn’t mean being repetitive or boring, it means not making it harder than it should be.