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Good Language

When the language in your ads, web pages, or other communications is good, it creates a strong image and bolsters your brand. It also accomplishes its purpose, e.g. making sales. When the language is poor, it fails in each of these ways.

The quality of the language depends on two levels. We call them substance or content and style or expression.

Substance

Writing with substance means you have something to say. That substance comes from writers doing their homework and knowing the product, service, or company they are writing about. Writing that’s lacking in substance never works. Readers won’t be fooled if what they find is empty or irrelevant. They want something meaty they can sink their teeth into, writing that answers their questions before they buy.

Several of the assignments we received over the years had already been assigned to other writers or ad agencies. The client declined to use them and hired us to do them right. When we looked at the pieces done by the others we always found the same thing.  Empty generalities. Vague claims.  Pompous puffery. “Our client is the best… Our service is the fastest…, etc.”

When copywriters don’t do their homework and dig into what they’re writing about, all they can offer is empty language which is a total waste of time, money, and opportunity. Readers aren’t fooled.

Style

If substance is what you have to say, style is how you say it. If the copy is interesting, readers keep reading.  If it’s persuasive, they take action.

Good style is composed of several elements, such as clarity of expression, syntactically correct, standard English, interesting voice, appropriate tone, whether serious or humorous, formal or informal, and many other elements.  Although good style can be hard to characterize, we all know it when we see it. When writing is interesting to the reader, it becomes much more effective and yields greater results.

A major characteristic of style from the business point of view is persuasiveness.  If it doesn’t persuade readers and move them to action, it is a pointless exercise. Persuasiveness is the result of a strong emotional appeal backed up by and sometimes clothed in a logical argument.

A common mistake, especially in business-to-business advertising, is to assume buyers make their decisions based on reason, logic, and the facts. This is rarely the case. Reason is used by both buyer and seller to justify the purchase, but it is almost never the reason the purchase is made.