Whether you’re writing a quick promotion for a digital sign or an e-book, words are important. They’re vital to getting your point across clearly and effectively.
Have you ever had a misunderstanding with a friend or loved one via text or email? I frequently use the words “pal” and “buddy” to refer to my friends in casual conversation. However, I once offended an acquaintance of mine in a Facebook comment because I called him “pal,” and he took that as an insult. A word that meant one thing to me was perceived differently by someone else – words matter.
Read these two sentences:
The verdant bed was abundant with produce.
The green garden was full of ripe vegetables.
These two sentences mean the exact same thing, don’t they? Then, what’s the difference? Which would you use if you were writing literary fiction? Which would you use if you were talking to a farmer? Right. Audience makes all the difference.
When it comes to choosing vocabulary, you have to consider who the audience is and how they’ll perceive what you’re communicating. What words do they use? What are some buzz words that will grab their attention? How does this demographic respond to promotional language?
This is not to say that your vocabulary shouldn’t also reflect who YOU are, but consider the way you alter your vocabulary choices every day: you speak differently to your children than you might to your peers, you speak differently to a religious leader than you might to someone who cut you off on the freeway. Each word choice you make says something about who you are, and who you perceive the listener to be.
So, take an inventory of your written messaging and ask yourself:
- Are the words you choose more formal or conversational?
- Do your word choices tend to be positive or negative? For example, “pooch” might skew positive, whereas “mutt” might skew negative, and “dog” would be neutral.
- Does your messaging sound more old-fashioned or hip?
- General or specific?
- Do you swear?
- Do you use first person language such as “I” or “we” to refer to your business?
- Do you talk directly to your reader, saying “you” do this or that, or do you use “we,” “some people,” or “one” when describing what people do?
Then, ask these same questions about your target customer. Look at emails, Facebook pages, blogs, etc. that represent that persona. Do your word choices match theirs? Are you speaking in a way they’ll perceive you correctly? If not, what are some tweaks you could make?
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