Who knew creating copy for your website was so hard!
And now your problem is going to get harder, when it comes to the words we use in our copy.
Especially if you’re using big words.
According to research conducted by Princeton University, if you’re using big words in your copy, your readers will think you’re stupid.
(Even if you’re using those words in the right way.)
But does that mean basic words are the successful way to go?
It’s not about the words
In a study conducted by author Daniel Oppenheimer at Princeton, students were shown samples of different texts, with special focus placed on vocabulary.
Over a series of five experiments, Oppenheimer discovered that authors who wrote in simpler language were rated by students as having higher intelligence than those who wrote in a more complex style.
Oppenheimer made this observation at the time:
“It’s important to point out that this research is not about problems with using long words but about using long words needlessly… Anything that makes a text hard to read and understand, such as unnecessarily long words […] will lower evaluations of the text and its author.”
By that, we don’t mean technical terms you sometimes need to use.
But everyday words that are long.
As Oppenheimer points out, the problem isn’t with these types of words themselves.
The problem is in making sure what you’re saying can be universally understood by your reader.
It’s about reaching for the thesaurus for the ‘next word down’ from the word you’re using, so everyone can feel included.
So what type of words do I mean?
Well, instead of individuals, for example, why not say People?
Results instead of Outcome.
Problems instead of Challenges.
Shown instead of Demonstrated.
Ask and not Enquire.
Genuine instead of Authentic.
Start instead of Initiate.
Change instead of Transform.
Finding what you enjoy instead of finding your passion.
Where your words should land
When it comes to deciding what to write on the web, there’s only one thing to keep in mind: your reader comes first.
Everything you write needs to help them understand how you help them. The fewer barriers there are between you, the better.
You will notice in my word list how the more “basic” words feel warmer and more personal than the longer ones. This can give the reader the impression you’re a personable business.
Better still, you have a better chance of readers buying into what you do if you keep your words simple.