Photo by topgold
When writing copy, one of the most important things you must remember is this: keep it simple.
I’ll show you why.
Do the following song lyrics mean anything to you?
“Indicate the way to my habitual abode,
I’m fatigued and I wish to recuperate,
I consumed a little alcohol sixty minutes ago,
and it’s gone right to my cerebral hemisphere,
Wherever I may perambulate,
through the land of sea and atmospheric vapours
you will always find me syncopating this melody,
indicate the way to my habitual abode.”
When I was about 14, I went on a school trip, pony-trekking to Wales. As the ponies picked their way over the rocky paths, we would all sing the above song – over, and over. I’m sure the adults found it excruciating. Why we sang it, I just don’t know. Anyway, it came into my head this morning, and I realised that, at the time, I didn’t have a clue what I was singing about.
Did you recognise it? It’s a version of the old folk song, ‘Show me the way to go home.’ It goes like this:
“Show me the way to go home,
I’m tired and I wanna go to bed,
I had a little drink about an hour ago,
and it’s gone right to my head,
wherever I may roam,
through the land of sea and snow,
you will always find me singing this song,
show me the way to go home.”
As I sang this to my myself this morning, I realised that the ‘dressed up’ version of the song is a perfect example of bad copywriting. The original is easy to understand, easy to remember, and has greater impact.
When we write, we often find ourselves, whether consciously or subconsciously, substituting simple, straightforward words and phrases for ‘better’ ones. Instead of saying ‘we help small businesses to increase their sales’, we might say ‘we provide a strategic consultancy service incorporating planning, forecasting, and marketing for improved outcomes’. We seem to think that the more complicated and verbose, the better. The internet is littered with examples, resulting in confusion, boredom and, ultimately, a complete failure in getting the message across.
There are often times where complicated words and phrases are unavoidable, for example when writing about law. This is perfectly reasonable. Just make sure that you don’t use a complicated word where a simple alternative is available.
Remember: if you want to get your message across, keep it simple.