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Keeping wordiness to a minimum

Back in the old days, encyclopaedia salesmen knocked on doors and were invited in to peddle their wares. We were accustomed to reading great tomes of information. But now that the internet is the vastest source of information available to civilised mankind, our reading habits have changed phenomenally. Our brains are rapidly evolving into data factories that accept and process massive loads of information on a daily basis that would never have been expected of us way back when. It is for this reason that online marketing material has to be short, concise and delivered in easily digestible chunks. Otherwise, you will lose your reader in mere seconds.

Attention spans ain’t what they used to be

People don’t have the time – or the inclination – to consume epic novels anymore. Our brains are stimulated by countless messages from our waking moments to the time we shut down in the evening. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are subconsciously and subliminally absorbing, as if by osmosis, advertising slogans and jingles, graphics, images, logos, prices, features and benefits all day long. Is it any wonder so many of us are in danger of becoming poster children for Attention Deficit Disorder?

Have you ever noticed how people can become absorbed in reading the cereal box while they eat their breakfast? It’s not that the material on the box is so fascinating; it’s really that it’s a way to shut out the other messages that are streaming in without invitation.

Bite sized info, just like our food

We have developed a culture of snacking; not just with our food but in our consumption of information. We simply don’t ‘do’ three square meals a day anymore. We grab a burger, microwave a meal, dial a pizza, prepare instant porridge, just add water and choose snack size/bite size, handy twin packs. They’re all designed to help us keep moving, keep processing and keep functioning, even though we’re extremely busy.

Your marketing material must address this ‘snacking culture’ as well, or your audience will simply switch off. Or, to take the food analogy that one tasty morsel further, they’ll lose their appetite for what you have to offer!

“Serve up smaller portions to keep readers interested.”

How to …

Here are some ways you can serve up your information without inducing indigestion in your reader:

  • Maintain a word count of around 300 words on your web pages.
  • Break up material into short, digestible chunks that can easily be scan-read.
  • Use bullet points, sub-headings and pull quotes to draw attention to key messages.
  • Add images to create eye appeal.
  • Avoid connector words such as ‘and’ or ‘because’ where possible as they only lengthen sentences.
  • Use Twitter to deliver valuable ‘crumbs’ of information. Known as a micro-blogging platform, Twitter demands that we fit everything we need to say into 140 characters. It’s not even measured in words; just characters!
  • Utilise URL shorteners such as bit.ly to cram more data into tight spaces.
  • Embrace what I call ‘word economy’. If you can use three words instead of ten and adequately convey your meaning, do it.

When not to minimise

Teenagers have a lot to answer for here. As arguably the biggest consumers of snack foods, they’ve really gotten the hang of condensing words, haven’t they? Their hyper-abbreviated language such as in text messages almost requires translation for the rest of us to even understand it.

  • Avoid using text-speak in your communications … unless perhaps your audience is Gen Z!
  • If the copy you’re writing absolutely demands a more generous word count, then don’t compromise on successfully conveying your message just to spare the volume.

If you find yourself writing ten course meals instead of tasting platters, consider outsourcing your writing – or at least the culling of it – to a copywriter.

What do you think?

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Gina Lofaro

Gina Lofaro

Gina Lofaro aka ‘the wordmistress’ is an Internet copywriter whose instinctive marketing intelligence and creativity lead to some clever ideas and help turn browsers into buyers and readers into fans! Gina has written countless websites for clients and is popular for her professional bios which shine an uncanny spotlight on the person’s character and experience. She will transform your newsletters from ‘ho-hum’ to ‘OMG’ and make your marketing collateral sing! For more information, visit http://www.wordmistress.com.au.

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