Writing for Customers: Concise Versus Clear

I’ve never bought a product or service because the salesperson wouldn’t shut up. Well, there was this car dealer once…

But here’s my point: in their marketing collateral, in print and online, many businesses try to make a sale by “outtalking” their customers. They are desperate for customers to read their entire message. So they pack information into a single long phrase or sentence, whether or not it makes sense.

One company’s website stated: “We provide power delivery concept selection support.” The phrase “power delivery concept selection support” could mean almost anything. A rewrite makes the company’s actual service clear: “We help large factories decide on the most efficient and economical method for generating power.” True, the rewrite takes eight more words. But those eight words are the difference between “outtalking” a customer and communicating, the difference between being concise and being clear.

In the same way, one long sentence demands more of the customer’s time and effort than two short sentences. Take this example from another website: “Customers can replace their existing multiple systems used to perform budgeting, reporting, billing and forecasting functions for tracking different products from different suppliers with one fully integrated system.” Now, here’s the rewrite: “Our system tracks every product you purchase from every supplier. It handles all of your separate budgeting, reporting, billing and forecasting functions—replacing multiple systems with one fully integrated system.” The rewrite is just a little less concise–it adds two words–but it is a lot clearer.

Customers are reading your brochure, website or other marketing collateral to find out about your company, product or service. So you want to make their learning curve easy. Your first duty is to write clearly. Then you can worry about being concise.

You might set yourself this task. Hunt through your copy for more than two nouns in a row and for any sentence longer than 18 words. Then rewrite. The results will amaze you. Your content will gain energy, interest, power and clarity. At TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, we’ve helped many companies move from outtalking customers to truly communicating. Let us help you.