How to Improve Clarity

Presented live on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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If you want people to REMEMBER what you do or why you do it, you need to focus on a single message. ONE THING.

Your message needs to be clear and concise. But how? How to Improve Clarity: – One adjective to describe something – One benefit per sentence – One takeaway for the whole page

Here’s what that means in your copywriting:

In most cases, when the words “and,” “but” or “or” or a comma (,) appear in your copy, that’s a place where you’re DILUTING your message.

And if you’re diluting your message, you’re LOSING PROSPECTS!

In this Tutorial Tuesdays, Jo shows you how to bring more clarity into your writing so your message holds strong from start to finish.


Introduction [00:00]

Joanna Wiebe: It’s all about clarity.

Yeah, how do we be more clear? And I know it can be like, oh, that’s the easy part of copywriting. No, it’s like a really hard art of all writing, so I want to share with you a technique for being clearer. Are we ready for this? 

What to Expect in This Tutorial [00:26]

We’re improving clarity by doing this, one thing while we’re editing in the awesome. That is removing, or challenging at least, the instances of the word “and,” “but,” or “or,” as well as any comma that you see. 

Like a comma in a list in particular. That is what improving clarity is all about and I’m going to show you why and how, and all of that great, great stuff. 

When Less is More [00:57]

So, the whole idea here, and something that we have to think about a lot as copywriters is that your reader’s brain can hold one thing and it’s head Best. That’s the best thing to do. 

Do you have one thing to say about who you are, or what your product is, or whatever it was just one thing. And you always said it, all the time. People would naturally remember it more. The question, of course, that a lot of us have as copywriters and marketers is, well, what is that one thing? 

And maybe we should just try three things. Because they’re okay with three things. They can handle three things. That’s fine. And that’s typically being a little bit lazy. Like, I’m not sure which one to go with. 

Or I’m insecure about my own skills and getting someone to believe that this thing that I’m saying, this one thing, is the most important thing that they should care about. So I’m just going to put a lot of things on the page. But that’s really bad. We’re getting people to say yes to what you’re offering. 

“And” Can Cost You a Prospect [01:46]

So the basic idea here is that every time you use the word “and,” and when you see the word “and” here, sub in “but” or a comma, you lose a prospect. So every time you use the word “and,” you lose a prospect.

Accept that. That’s the rule. Every time you use the word “and,” you just lost a prospect. Not all of them, but every time that keeps happening. You’re going to keep losing people. 

Now let’s expand on that a little bit. So every time “and,” “but,” “or,” or a comma appears, it typically signals a diluted strong message. Particularly when that appears with adjectives. So you have three adjectives in a row, or two in a row. Or verb clauses, or any sorts of clauses that get attached together. 

Now, there will be exceptions and I will walk you through those. But don’t think about the exceptions. I think a lot of us like to go like, oh, but sometimes you need an “and,” so all the time I need an “and.”

Nope. Sometimes you need an “and.” All of the time, you do not need an “and.” not always need to have multiple things on the page when one is so much stronger so

Here’s an example of a bad use of “and” –  “Built faster, stronger and tougher.”

Signals to me, that you don’t know which one is most important thing to your prospect. Or you don’t know which one is the truest thing or the thing that you’re selling and so you’re just throwing a lot of stuff at us. So, hear the word “and” isn’t doing anything useful. 

It’s making your life easier as a copywriter. It’s not making your prospects’ life easier, though.

The Technique [03:31]

So what we want to do is highlight the word end and again and variation on that a conjunction effectively when it’s used as a conjunction. And then question it, then make a decision. So if you’re used to The Seven Sweeps, you already have in practice when you’re editing in the awesome. 

Or when you’ve done the whole editing process and now you’re ready to make sure everything’s good to go. You’re used to running down a page, highlighting things when you’re doing the Clarity Sweep or the Specificity Sweep, you highlight you keep going, highlight the whole way through the document.

Highlight the problems then go back and fix them. And you’re going to do the same thing here. You’re just going to go through and make sure, and this is part of thinking about clarity when you’re doing the clarity sweep. Is go through and flesh out that clarity sweep by looking out for “ands,” “or,” “buts” etc. 

Highlight them when you see them and then you get to go back and question them. That doesn’t mean you always remove them. There are cases when they do belong there, but you’ll have to make a more conscious decision. And it will mean getting really crisp, in the end, with what you’re actually trying to express. 

When is a Conjunction Okay? [04:33]

A Conjunction is okay if:

  1. It’s joining to items in a relationship
  2. It signals a timeline
  3. It’s an intentional list that supports one idea

It’s Joining Two Items in a Relationship [04:34]

So, a conjunction is okay if it’s joining two items in a relationship. So sometimes you do need an “and” on the page, such as “between you and me.” 

“And” is necessary. You can just say between you and then say, Well Jo said to cut all “ands.” Well, no, no, no, this is the case where you need to keep the “and.” It’s a relationship here, the sentence would not be improved if you were to delete it.

It Signals a Timeline [04:58]

A conjunction is also okay if it signals a timeline. So, “I got a coffee and drank it.” That’s a timeline. That’s something that’s happening. It’s really like and then, we’re just not saying the word “then” in there, but that’s a necessary “and” on the page. You could change it, you could make it its own sentence. But you don’t have to make it its own sentence here. It’s an okay use of “and.” The sentence would not be improved if it were deleted. 

It’s an Intentional List That Supports One Idea [05:23]

If it’s an intentional list that supports one idea. So let’s say you are going with a message like, “save time, save money, make money.” And you’re focusing everything on your page, or in your email, on that one thing, but you have features that prove that. So you might say, for Airstory, we might say “The Clipper Gmail plugin and iPhone app help you capture research fast.”

Okay, good. You’re listing three things that support this one bigger thing, which is capture research fast, here’s how that happens. That’s an okay “and” to have. It’s a useful list to have there.

So those are three cases where it’s cool to have an “and.”

Discipline [06:04]

But it’s really critical that you make sure you’re doing that intentionally. We want to move away from just throwing everything at the reader and have the discipline to say just ONE thing intentionally.

And this is a good thing to talk with your clients about as well. Whether you have internal clients because he worked at an organization or an agency as their copywriter, or you’re a freelance copywriter, or consultant and you have clients who are like, Oh, you’re only saying save time, but, you know, it will also save them money. Oh, and we make them money too. And now they want you to put three messages on the page. 

And if you had just gone with “save time” and really written the hell out of an argument in favor of how your product, your feature, your solution, whatever it is, saves time, people could actually have that sink in.

As soon as you say “it saves time, saves money, makes you money, gives you grandchildren in a foreign country.” I don’t know, but all sorts of things. You’ve got this giant list of stuff and it just dilutes the power of saying just one thing. 

Sample Clarity Sweep [07:09]

So what we’re going to do now is show examples of how that works. So I use Drift, their website, as an example for everything. I don’t know why. It just pops into my head when it’s time for me to go look at an example. It’s Base Camp, Asana, Drift, whichever one I end up just randomly choosing that day. 

So here we are. Here’s an example. We’re going to just look at how to edit. Hopefully you can still see my screen. At what happens when you do edit everything down to a single message. 

Drift Website [07:42]

So here Drift is saying it’s the revenue acceleration platform. Cool. It’s making a statement. It’s all about revenue acceleration. Awesome, it’s strong. I want to learn more about what that means, how that will be great for me. And then we get to the sentence, “Bring your go to market teams together to deliver personalized customer experiences that increase your revenue, shorten your sales cycles and strengthen your brand.” 

So if we were doing a sweep here, for the clarity sweep, we would highlight the commas and the “ands” here and then we’d go back and change them later on. And that doesn’t have to mean change. And we might look at this and go like, Oh, no, this is really important did actually all three of these are critical.

But typically, when you’re doing that, when you say that, you have to push beyond that first reaction and really ask yourself, but is it? How does “shortening your sales cycle,” help me understand “revenue acceleration platform?” And maybe it does, but “strengthening your brand,” that’s way off in another direction. 

That’s very indirectly tied to revenue acceleration. So I’m supposed to grow my revenue faster, but you’ve got “strengthen your brand” in here. So, at least, we’d want to delete that message.

And now we can say something that’s more intentional. These two things are still tied to revenue acceleration platform. So we have “increase your revenue and shorten your sales cycles.” 

However, if we were bolder, if we were confident, if we believed strongly that people need to accelerate revenue and this solution helps them do that one thing. And there are enough people in the world that care about this. Enough people coming here and people that we can attract, that if we just tell them we’re going to accelerate revenue, they will then believe it and start a trial. In which case, that’s all we would do. 

Increase your revenue. So “Bring your go to market teams together to deliver personalized customer experiences that increase your revenue.” Now I know what you do. Now I know what the outcome is. And that’s bold and it’s hard to get clients on board, but when you see it, you can tell you don’t really miss the other messages. 

You don’t really miss the “shorten your sales cycle.” Does it belong up at the top, or should it be its own page, or maybe its own section.

Now we keep moving. So “See how 50,000 businesses use Drift to create pipeline and accelerate revenue.” So we have “revenue acceleration platform” here, if “creating pipeline” is part of “accelerating revenue,” then maybe we just go with “create pipeline.”

If it’s not, if it’s indirect. And it’s not really in clear support of this, now our job as copywriters is to question this. Which one is it? Or is this a timeline thing? Do you first create pipeline and then accelerate revenue? If is a timeline, then we can better express that. 

So you can accelerate revenue, or something like that. But start thinking about do we need to have a bunch of conjunctions on the page? If I know that every time I put the word and on a page, I lose a prospect, is it worth it? Or is there a better way that I can message it? “Accelerate your digital transformation and scale the power of your team.” This is first do this and then do that. It’s a timeline, I would still turn it into its own.

And now, if it’s two separate things. It actually is two separate things. And we have to choose one. So, accelerate your digital digital transformation and scale the power of your team. Which one is more important? Which one is easier to understand? Which one matters most for a prospect? If we just go with one of those that could be, again, it’s one message. It is more powerful because it’s more memorable. 

I have less to suspend in my head, especially when I consider in the actual context of this page, look at how much is visually going on here. You’ve already got, you’re in competition with sliding logos moving across the page with these text message like things off to the side, that you want to look at. 

Do you really think someone is going to hold two separate ideas in their head? How motivated would I have to be, as your prospect, to believe that I will actually hold two messages in my head? I’m not going to.

“Create more pipeline and revenue faster.” Like, which one is it? Choose one. Choose one and then I know this is just one thing. There’s more in here, more “ands” that we’d want to highlight, more commas, that we would want to highlight. So, that’s what we want to make sure that we’re doing. Go through, be hard on the copy because your prospect will be hard on it, will be a lot harder on it than you ever, ever could be, or then your client could be

So, that brings us to the end of our Tutorial Tuesdays. Such a big question. We’ll cover that another day. Um, alright, so no, we really will do our best to cover it another day. It’s just a very big question.

But that wraps up today’s Tutorial Tuesdays. Thanks everybody for participating. For all of your great questions. I hope you found it useful. I saw some people say, I’m going to go do this on the page I wrote right now. That is awesome. Use it. Tell us how it worked for you. 

Go over to the Word Workers group and post it if you want to. And otherwise we’re off next Tuesday, because we only do four in a month. And next Tuesday. Still September, but it’s the fifth. So we’ll see the first week of October, for I believe we’re doing the first week of October is The Practice.

So if you attended The Practice last time and you were like, this is interesting. We’re going to do The Practice again. Good luck with it. All right, we’ll see you guys in two weeks. Have a great time. Take care out there. Thanks everybody. Bye.

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