Don’t Forget to Cook Your Words: How to Linguistically Optimize Your Communications

SPLICE Software on June 3, 2016

The human brain, as you know, is an amazing machine that computes quickly and efficiently. If you've ever read from a written script for a presentation, or even a wedding speech, you may have noticed that you automatically made certain changes without meaning to. If you were paying attention when you read that script out loud, or were committed to making it sound like it wasn't scripted, you probably noticed a few things that your brain does and does not like:

  1. It does not like stiffness
  2. It does not like unnecessarily long sentences
  3. It does like value and reasons to keep paying attention
  4. It does like to skim, like crazy

Your brain will automatically make corrections when you take something that was written and try to make it work for spoken word. The same can be said about corporate-to-consumer communications that were written by one brain, and read by another.

There is a constant disconnect between how the writer and audience perceives content. So, if you’re looking to make your corporate-to-consumer communications more impactful, it’s very important to bring these same ideas to the forefront each time you write that email - or any content for that matter - especially if you’re hoping to get a response.

Not only is it enough to make your content feel like it flows while making it concise and valuable, it is also extremely important to be acutely aware of your audiences’ surroundings - which channel are they seeing this message? What would have brought them to this message? Whether it be social, email, text, or phone as the channel, here are some details on how to go about doing this:

Stiffness can be perceived in many ways, but in corporate communication it manifests through those traditional statements that have been used time and time again. In fact, as a marketer or writer, it may be the first thing that pops in to your mind when you're thinking about what to type in that script or that email. But it is a dangerous thought. If it's the very first thing that comes to mind, it's likely the thing that you've heard time and time again. Reflect on the times when you're not at work, and are looking through your personal email... All those emails you auto-delete likely had one of those cliché sentences in them. Read our last blog on how to use personalization to avoid this.

Long sentences are hard to read. Normally long sentence can be great for speeches or spoken word - as the human who is speaking inserts punctuation to break up that sentence; pauses act as hard stops. However, when that same sentence is put down on paper, good luck having an audience invest the time it takes to decipher what your sentence means. In poetic theory, you learn about the strong impact punctuation has. You learn that it really helps the reader take a sentence to the next level as it guides them to an understanding. Use punctuation as a tool to convey the tone and personality of your words - trust me, it works!

Value. Now, when we’re talking about content that has a desired action of making a person a qualified lead, or moving a person along the sales cycle, it is extremely important, and tricky, to add value. We both (the writer and the reader) know that there is a motive behind our content, but we need to present our content in a way that is valuable, credible, and non-salesy (for lack of a better word). Of course, you would love the lead to one day become a part of your sales cycle, but it cannot feel that way to the reader, audience, or user. Content, in any form, should have a give and take feeling where it’s enjoyable to engage with.

And lastly, the skimmers. Smart technology, and the constant content that comes with it, has had a large impact on the way society reads and interprets messaging. In fact, Time Magazine recently sited Microsoft’s findings: “since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.” I know that I have felt the push to move at hyper speed, so much so, that I triple-check all communications, making sure they are targeted to the above principles - or I can say goodbye to my desired outcomes. So, content writing then becomes a task of helping craft your content in the best way possible, to ensure that you are doing everything you can to make that message digestible.

While these ideas may seem rudimentary, I too often receive messaging that doesn’t seem appropriate to my customer journey or the channel I’m receiving it in. I task all those content professionals out there, to take the time to make it great. You wouldn’t go to a restaurant if the chef took all of the ingredients and put them beside each other on a plate, without any prep work whatsoever. So, why should words be any different?

Words are merely ingredients that need to be prepped, massaged, and artistically crafted to become something beautiful and meaningful. And just like each country has their own style of food, each channel has its own style of story. So, don’t forget to thoroughly cook your words. For more tips on how to optimize your messaging, feel free to reach out to me directly.