simple and clear

Word Choice: Choose Simple and Clear Over Smart and Clever

Linda Mulcahy
November 23, 2018

Remember when you had to beef up the word count of your term paper in order to meet your picky professor’s minimum? So you replaced simple and clear words with crazy long phrases?

You typed regardless of the fact that instead of although, and you went with at that point in time instead of using the simple transition then.

Yeah. You don’t have to do that anymore.

The best copywriting is simple and clear. In copywriting, you’re trying to capture your readers’ interest, engage their emotions, and persuade them to take a next step.

If your readers see words they don’t know, if their reading is slowed down by extra syllables, or if they think you’re wasting their time with fluff, they’re going to check out long before they get to your call-to-action.

Simple and Clear Does Not Mean Stupid

It’s not that your readers are uneducated. And they certainly don’t want to be talked down to.

They’re just busy.

Direct copywriter John Caples (the marketing genius behind the wildly successful and often imitated ad that started “They laughed when I sat down at the piano—but when I started to play!), said this about writing simply:

“Don’t make ads simple because you think people are low in intelligence. Some are smart and some are not smart. The point is that people are thinking about other things when they see your ad. Your ad does not get their full attention or intelligence. . . . People won’t study your ad carefully. They can’t be bothered. And so you have to make your ads simple.”

He said this back in 1932. Imagine how much more distracted we are today.

So a key part of your job is to make it easy for your audience to read your copy. You can do this by using their language and simplifying the text.

Choose These Simple and Clear Words

Sure, you might need to use a complex term when you’re going for a precise meaning. And clever turns of phrase have their place, maybe in a blog post, for example.

But as a general rule, when writing direct response copy, choose the simple and clear words rather than the ones that make you feel super smart and witty.

Here’s a handy list of commonly used complex words and phrases along with choices that are much easier to read and understand.

Advantageous — Helpful

Ameliorate — Improve

Apparent – Clear

Ascertain – Find out

Attempt – Try

Close proximity – Near

Cognizant – Aware

Commence – Begin or start

Commensurate – Equal

Concur – Agree

Consolidate – Combine

Constitute – Make up

Deleterious – Harmful

Disseminate – Issue or send

Encounter – Meet

Endeavor – Try

Equitable – Fair

Erroneous – Wrong

Expeditious – Fast

Fabricate – Build

Facilitate – Help

In order to – To

Inception – Start

Initiate – Begin

Implement – Carry out

Leverage – Use

Modification – Change

Optimize – Perfect

Prescribed – Required

Proficiencies – Skills

Promulgate – Issue or publish

Regarding – About

Remuneration – Reward or payment

Subsequently – After or later

Sufficient – Enough

Terminate – End

Transmit – Send

Utilize – Use

Whereas – Since

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