It’s not what you write, it’s how you write it!

write using small words

This controversial comment can be interpreted in many ways.

However, today I am focusing on the kind of words you should use in your posts if you want to achieve more success in your blog.

Time to get political

Don’t worry, I’m not a political person. Far from it!

The main reason is that I don’t really understand all this political stuff that is flung around nowadays. Especially all the legal and financial jargon. It brings me out in a cold sweat and makes me feel stupid for not knowing what it means.

I’m sure I’m not alone. A lot of misinterpretations are made by the general public, let alone people higher in status, because they didn’t fully comprehend what was said.

And then there is the question of implying. And inferring. (Don’t ask me to interpret their true meanings, my husband has given up trying to explain them to me.)

So much can be misconstrued because the real definition is not known, has become confused, has changed its meaning or is downright old fashioned.

Hail simplicity!

Whenever something is really successful, it is because it is based on a simple solution. Or foundation. Or a question. Or a situation.

If you really get a chance to analyse successful people, is because they are really good at explaining things – simply.

One person who always fascinates me is Kenneth Clarke CH QC. As you can see from his letters, he is a man of law.

Now interpreting the law is a complicated business. And so it explaining it to the general public whenever necessary. But Kenneth Clarke has got this off to a tee.

Whenever he’s on the radio explaining some legal situation, I always prick up my ears. I love listening to him, because it seems to me that I understand exactly what he’s saying. (It’s only afterwards when I think about it, I realise that I really haven’t!)

And the reason is, is because he has avoided as much legal jargon as he can. He uses simple, everyday words. He adopts the kind of language the ordinary chap in the street uses.

He knows that if he went all highfalutin and pompous in relaying the facts, he would lose the vast majority of his listeners. Even the supposedly intelligent ones that listen to Radio 4.

The grim truth about Donald Trump

Love him or hate him (for me it’s definitely the latter), this monstrosity is gaining the upper ground.

And why? Because is uses simple words.

I don’t think it’s because he’s extremely intelligent like Kenneth Clarke, who has worked on how he relays complicated legal stuff to the general population.

I think it’s because he says the kind of rubbish a stupid person would say. And unfortunately, the majority of his audience also use them.

(Sorry to our cousins on the other side of the pond, but you have to admit it, most Americans are hardly degree level!)

And that’s just it! He is communicating effectively because he is focusing the kinds of words he uses at the point most Americans will be able to understand.

Whereas Hilary Clinton, even though I much prefer her, is peppering her speeches with words at a much more intellectual level. She will be losing most potential voters because they aren’t able to relate to her or what she says.

Is that why those rubbish blogs get lots of comments?

Yes, it is.

The kind of vocabulary (sorry, I mean words used) is very simple. Nothing is long, intellectual or complicated. And this includes the subject matter as well as the words used.

It’s a question of understanding the level of your readers (oops, I nearly said audience there!). And those who aren’t studying for a PhD and prefer gossip programmes on the telly will be the ones that are more likely to leave comments on blogs.

And it is the blogs that are written in a conversational style (rather than as a staid, boring, professional article focusing on a much higher level) that are going to attract much more readers. And these readers will understand it better, relate to it better, and ultimately will want to have their say more readily.

Don’t forget conversation goes against all that your English teacher taught you at school about writing essays. Blogging is not about writing an essay. It’s about communicating, like a conversation, with your readers.

So you write as you would speak. You repeat words often. You start sentences with ‘and’ and ‘but’. You end your sentences with ‘to’ and ‘at’. (You can split your infinitives until you are blue in the face!) You create short sentences. You form your sentences differently. You don’t worry about grammar, as long as what you write makes sense.

If you find yourself thinking too hard about what you’re writing, it’s time to delete what you have written and start again. Seriously.

Focus on your headlines

Your headlines are the first point of call to your readers. It is what they notice first about your post.

It doesn’t matter how fantastic the rest of your post may be, it’s never going to get read if the headline is rubbish.

It’s like giving a present wrapped in newspaper stuck together with icky bits of sticky tape, with a dirty great footprint in the middle. The receiver isn’t going to know inside is a diamond necklace set with rubies worth tens of thousands of pounds.

But then, you’ve got to be careful the other way. An absolutely whizz-bang headline in front of a totally rubbish bit of writing will ruin the reader’s experience and make them feel short changed.

So headlines and content need to match up. Their main purpose is to attract the reader and deliver the goods.

And this is made all the more effective by the kind of words you use.

Now if you’re worrying about SEO (search engine optimisation, such a complicated term here!) my tip is to focus the headline at the top of your post on your readers. It is they who will be reading it first. It should be designed purely for their enjoyment, understanding, and ability to relate to it.

(And keep all that keyword malarky for the SEO headline and meta-description stuff at the bottom of the post, depending on which plugin you’re using.)

The headline should use the kind of words your readers ‘get’ immediately. They need to reach out to them, twang a nerve, spark a regret, highlight a mistake, relate to a problem.

And if you’re really canny, the headline should continue by offering a solution, soothing the hurt, or answering the question. Sometime it is that second bit that might be what makes the reader really sit up and take notice.

So now it’s over to you!

For your information, I have written this post totally focusing on what kind of words I used, and haven’t given a tinker’s toot about keywords and all that sort of thing!

Because sometimes I think that is important. Blogging is about writing. It’s about having fun. It’s about having your say, your way, without being dictated to by boring search engine people and digital marketers.

So just get out there and write. Write whatever words come into your head. They are the best ones. If you feel the need to stretch out to the thesaurus, stop! Slap your hand. It isn’t necessary.

It’s not difficult to explain something using simple, ordinary, everyday words. Especially if you’re accustomed to a professional, corporate background. I remember when I first started working at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, it took me several weeks to get my head around the jargon and acronyms.

And in the end I didn’t need them (unless it was to understand those incredibly boring and useless meetings). I certainly didn’t use any of them when I did my website training. In fact what made me popular was the fact that I didn’t use them!

So think about the words you use in your posts. Would your readers understand them? Would they use them themselves? Are they all necessary? Could you have explained that point in another way? Is there a simpler alternative? (Avoid using ‘alternative’, use ‘another way’. Got it?)

And let me know what you think in the comment box below. In simple, everyday, easy to understand words, of course!

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Alice Elliott

Every beginner blogger needs a Fairy Blog Mother when they're just starting out, who can “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. Alice Elliott provides technical advice for Attract Readers, drawing on her expertise from over a decade of helping bloggers understand blogging better.

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