Why choosing the right words is essential if you want to engage your audience

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 at 8:03 AM

A lesson in subtlety from World War ll

courage-300px_1Writing copy for marketing materials is about much more than describing your business. In my post ‘Let me tell you a story’,  I wrote about the power of painting a picture for your audience and the importance of choosing words that will engage them.  Well, I’ve just come across a great example from the Second World War of why you need to keep your audience in mind all the time you’re writing.

The Home Publicity Division of The Ministry of Information managed to alienate its target audience with its first poster. Created to boost morale, the poster had the opposite affect because it read:

your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us Victory.’ Not surprisingly, it prompted people to wonder who exactly you and we were in that equation!It’s not that the words are wrong: they say what the MOI meant. But they don’t capture the spirit the MOI wanted to create because, unsurprisingly, the words didn’t engage their audience. In fact, they alienated them. The Ministry lost an opportunity to make people feel part of a common cause, and gain goodwill.

So, the lesson from this piece of wartime propaganda? Keep calm and carry on putting your reader at the centre of everything you write.

Churchill's Wizards resized‘Churchill’s Wizards The British Genius for Deception 1914-1945 by Nicholas Rankin. Published by Faber and Faber ISBN 978-0-571-22195-0

Let me tell you a story | Wedlock by Wendy Moore – a true story that’s as thrilling as any novel

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

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