11 March 2006

Using the right language for the copy

Extending the idea of an earlier post about not making assumptions, I thought that I would draw your attention to this article on readability.

I became interested in this issue after a comment by one of my clients. I had written about 2000 words to be put into a newsletter and after reading it, he said, "You need to modify the language a bit. The average reading age of the people who read this newsletter is 10."

So the issue of readability has to be a key element in copywriting. The copy has to speak to its audience without being either patronising or opaque. It's no wonder that copywriting is a dying art. It's hard. Fortunately it's a skill that can be learned, and in the 21st century we have access to timely statistics that help us to understand what people read and where they get bored. Experimentation has always been possible, but what the internet provides is an immediacy that copywriters working with advertisements, brochures and mailshots pre-internet could never imagine.

Now, you simply have to choose a sample size and assess what the statistics tell you when the sample size is reached. Providing that you didn't try to confuse yourself by changing too many variables simultaneously, you have the basis for understanding which piece of copy works better. What is more, the cost is relatively trivial.

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