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The cure to a case of the vagaries or lawyer's tongue

Well written copy gets your message across as clearly as possible. Online reading behaviour is different to that seen for traditional print; readers engage less, scan more and read slower.

More often than not, ineffective copy stems from the writer over-complicating things; the message is lost amidst a tangled clutter of unwieldy sentences.

entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem

This is Occam’s razor in Latin; more familiar is the English translation:

“All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”

By focusing on clarity you will improve the fitness of your writing and make it work harder.

Copywriting afflictions

Here follows a list of common afflictions and their symptoms that can strike anyone writing for business:

  • A case of the vagaries — an inability to say anything concrete.
  • Marketing spiel — a nasty mix of verbal diarrhoea and projectile waffling.
  • Monarchic compulsion — a sudden urge to speak as one ought.
  • Word blindness — unable to really read what they’ve written.
  • I am robot — must sound stilted. Must write mechanically: remove all personality. Concise. Cold.
  • Lawyer’s tongue — cloaking simple meaning in complex and undecipherable terms that mean nothing except to fellow sufferers.
  • Word gush — an uncontrollable desire to put every thought into words.

All these conditions create confusion, ambiguity and ineffective copy. How can you inoculate yourself? KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid!). Strive for clarity and write naturally for your audience.

Get clarity

Be clear. Your emails should easily get their message across. Here are some of the key things you’ll need to write clearly:

  • A point — every word, sentence, paragraph and page must have a purpose
  • A good understanding of what, why and to who you’re writing
  • An understanding of how to organise and structure your writing
  • The ability to write concisely but vividly
  • Grammar on board as a friend and not an enemy

Mastering clarity is the first step in writing more effective copy. Give yourself a chance and keep it simple.

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