THE TROUBLE WITH WORDS
‘The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they’ve been in.’
I read the above Dennis Potter quote in a book on design writing some years ago and it has always stuck with me. I’m reminded of it every time I write a creative proposal or we are looking at campaign copy that we have been supplied or commissioned. Words are a key part of a designer’s toolbox but are too often overlooked and can suffer as a result. At their best, words as part of a design combine with visual messages and help strengthen meaning. At their worst they confuse the message and act as a barrier to prevent the audience from engaging with your product, service or brand. As the Potter quote highlights, good copy can engage, challenge and even excite.
Good copy has the power to convince someone to do business with you. It captures their attention and then their interest. It tells them whether you understand their problem and are the people with solution to solve it. Most of all, good copy drives them to take action.
The average time a user spends on the landing page of a website is 5 seconds and 55% spend fewer that 15 seconds in total on your site. The statistics for print based communication are not much better, on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. A powerful and engaging headline is clearly important but it’s also essential to write succinct copy that clearly communicates without attempting to shoehorn too many ideas into your copy.
One great piece of advice that I have been given is to listen to your copy. When you write, either say the words out aloud or say them in your head. This simple practice kills off most examples of bad writing and helps to improve and clarify your thinking. I believe it can also help us to enjoy writing and will automatically help us to write better.