Why simple language is vital to your content marketing

Don’t make your readers reach for a dictionary. Keep copy concise, tidy and straightforward.

Just as it has for more than 40 years, Lake Superior State University recently released its annual list of words for banishment.

The list is certainly worth reviewing for writers and marketers who are (or should be) bound by sacred oath to keep language simple and jargon-free.

Lake Superior State proposes eliminating such gobbledygook as “nothingburger,” “onboarding/offboarding” and “fake news”—although that last term might be here to stay.

As a counterpoint to the banished word list, Wayne State University released its ninth annual Word Warriors list, a collection of words it would like to revive. Among the exhumations are “eucatastrophe” (a happy ending), “frangible” (fragile or brittle), “nugatory” (of no value) and “couth,” which sounds like something we could use more of these days.

Jerry Herron, a member of the Word Warriors editorial board, says reintroducing words like these into our daily conversations will “expand our ability to communicate clearly and help make our world a more interesting place.” Now, I’m all for vocabulary expansion, but there are reasons why words like “eucatastrophe” died. Archaic, perplexing words should remain resting peacefully in the lexicon graveyard. We have enough trouble communicating clearly right now.

As the content marketing field becomes increasingly crowded, it’s more important than ever to have a solid understanding of the people you’re trying to reach. Understanding how your audience prefers to communicate is the first step toward crafting content that resonates with them. With all due respect to the Word Warriors list, that language probably does not include the likes of “eucatastrophe.”

In all your marketing endeavors, I suggest using simple, plain language. People have little time to absorb content marketing, so it’s the easily digested messages that will win the day.

This doesn’t mean you should write in a puerile way that insults your audience. Develop unique, authoritative content, but engage your audience without making them reach for the dictionary.

Write short sentences and short paragraphs. Choose the simple word (“worthless”) over the obscure (“nugatory”) one. Before publishing, check your Flesch-Kincaid Readability Statistics, and streamline your writing.

Are there other words you’d like to deep-six? Please let us know in the comments section.

A version of this post first appeared on the Samoray Communications blog.


Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.