As is often the case when writing about ourselves or something we’re passionate about, our tendency is to reach for eloquence and sophistication to better convey our own feelings. Unfortunately, this means that we sometimes overextend ourselves.
That’s where my motto of “clarity over complexity” comes in. It is inspired by one of the first real-life journalism lessons I received from my copyediting professor, Dr. Douglas Starr, and reinforced as a fledgling editorial assistant at The Dallas Morning News.
It’s simple: Write the same way that you speak.
When we speak, rarely do we use long parenthetical statements, complicated punctuation, and grandiose vocabulary. When we speak, we often do so to conserve energy and to get our point across. When we write, we should do the same, except the energy we are conserving is that of the reader, though the point we wish to get across may be the same.
Why is it important?
In a world where our ability to get information across is no longer limited by print pages and column inches, the need to be concise is more important than ever.
Readers — especially those that are potential customers — need to understand what you offer within the first five seconds of landing on your site. The average time on site for users across industries is about two minutes and 17 seconds according to Brafton, a content marketing firm. Of those people who land on your site, more than half leave almost immediately.
So how do you connect with readers or potential clients and customers if they’re just looking for an excuse to bail and move on?
The solution is authenticity.
You have to write how you speak. You have to be honest — not only with your readers, but also with yourself.
Would you use the word “elucidate” in your everyday conversations? Then why are you using it on your marketing materials, your website, or in your correspondence when “shed light on” would suffice? If you don’t speak with complex sentence structure, why write that way? And if you’re not confident with some forms of punctuation, why risk using them incorrectly just to appear differently?
It’s your story, after all.
Genuinely connecting with readers draws them in, and your story allows them to connect with you and your brand. That may seem obvious, but what’s your average bounce rate and time on site? How many of the people who find your site through SEO actually convert to a sale?
Interested in learning more? Besides custom copywriting and copyediting services, I can also help you refine your brand presence through coaching.