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short words are best

Saturday, December 16, 2017

... but not always in the way you might expect


And Winnie the Pooh was an expert, for it was he who famously declared -
"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like -
'What about lunch?'"

So how does word length make a difference in our business English?

Imagine you’re writing a sales letter, promoting your latest widget. So – what’s the most important thing?
'Being professional?'
Well that's arguable ...
but tell us what you mean by 'professional'.

'I should make sure I use proper business-like words. Like this' -


I don't know about you, but I don't think this works terribly well.
How about this instead?

OK - not the best sales letter you've ever set eyes on but that's not the point.
It's more a question of which version is most likely to switch your reader on ...
...which letter has the best chance of getting Eric to pick up the phone.

I'm going to take a big risk here and assume we're both agreed that Number 2 is the one we prefer.

And the key difference between the two letters?

It's simply short words versus long words.
'tell' versus 'inform'
'free' versus 'complimentary'
'starts' versus 'commences'
And here's why we have this choice.

Welcome to today's history lesson, which, let's face it, is the real reason you decided to read this blog.

For most languages, there’s one word for every meaning.

But we English speakers are well known for making life difficult (no Brexit comments please)
More often than not, we offer two words for every meaning.  The reason lies in history and it goes like this -

Centuries ago, our country was populated by Romans and Anglo-Saxons.
Each had a major influence on the English language, giving us their own word for every meaning.

Studies show that the version which people respond to most readily i.e. the one which is easier to read, is the Anglo Saxon one.


So, in business writing, there's a simple rule – always go for the Anglo Saxon word -  the shorter one.

Just remember, to write copy that is clear, concise and compelling, small is ALWAYS beautiful.

Use short words and your readers will love you for it.

They really will.

And tomorrow's topic?

Mind the gap

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