Every time I write anything, even a simple email to a colleague, I find myself dithering over the wording. I worry whether or not I’ve used the right words – words that accurately convey my intentions and can’t be misinterpreted. I reread and tweak until I’m fairly confident that I’ve chosen the best words for the situation.
No doubt this will surprise you, knowing that I’m someone whose trade is language and communication. But that’s partly why word choice is always uppermost in my mind. I’ve seen the “power of words” in action. When words are well chosen they can have a striking impact. And in business, that means making the difference between getting your message heard/read versus having your message ignored.
The reason well chosen words are so important in business writing is that a lot of it is really about trying to persuade someone of something. It’s the words that do that for you. To put it more bluntly: Words sell. The question is, which words?
Keywords for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
With any website, and that includes The Language Lab site, there are words that literally sell, words that will help make your site show up at the top of a web search. These are the “keywords.” And as you probably know, having them strategically placed on a website makes the site easier for people to find. Using keyword tools like Google Adwords help you figure out which words are most commonly searched for. Then you need to make sure they are strategically placed throughout your site. This is a key part of the process known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
What Words Need to Do:
In business there’s a lot more to the power of words than playing the Search Optimization percentages though. Whether you are writing a web copy or a business email, it’s about choosing powerful or evocative words. You want to grab someone’s attention, hold their interest, and in most instances, you want some kind of response to what you’ve written. Getting people to respond is called (in marketing and advertising) the “call to action.” Word choice in a “call to action” is critical. Think of it this way: which of these sentences at the end of an email would make you think of clicking through to someone’s website?
1. Go to our website for more.
2. Our website has all the tools you need to get started.
So What’s the Good Word:
You need to know your target audience to determine which words will work best in any given situation. Obviously it’s important to make sure that the word you choose to describe something is accurate. If you have even a moment’s doubt as to the precise meaning of a word – look it up. Variety is also important. I know my eyes start to glaze over if I read the exact same words and phrases again and again in any document. And if you are trying to sell a product or persuade someone of something you really do need a “call to action,” a reason for that person to respond. Finally, consider “appealing to the senses.” Realtor.org has an interesting breakdown on what “appealing to the senses” is all about. But in a nutshell, I think appealing to the senses really means choosing words that evoke a visual image or an emotional response.
The power of words – and words that sell – is a huge topic, one I’d like to revisit in future blog posts. Of course I’d like to hear your thoughts about the power of words, so please do feel free to comment on the blog, whichever words you choose to use!