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KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

KISS is good advice for all copywriters, irrespective of whether they are writing for an international or local audience. But a copywriter for global marketing needs to be kissed even more because of the need to use straightforward English and simple sentence construction for those who do not have English as their mother tongue. Therefore, the use of puns and other plays on words is strictly a no-no as they may confuse rather than clarify. Recently I was asked to replace “mitigate” (lessen) and “obscure” (unclear) with simpler words because it was thought that the target group may not understand these words.

About ten years ago the marketing world seemed to change into what I call the Walt Disney society – clients wanted big colorful pictures but little text. My first natural instinct was to react against this, but over time I realized the benefits. For example, short text forces you to concentrate wonderfully on the essence of what you want to say, particularly when it comes to USPs – Unique Selling Points/Propositions. Nevertheless, writing shorter text is more demanding than writing longer text where you can just empty your brain on a subject. Short text takes longer to write and requires greater mental discipline. As Mark Twain said, “If I had more time, I would have written less.”

The reward of concentrating on just one USP was forcefully demonstrated recently by Barack Obama, the next President of the USA. Throughout his campaign he repeated over and over again in speeches his USP: the need for “Change.” This word was also highlighted on banners, posters, and other signage to ram home his message. And it worked!

As target audiences for marketing material are bombarded daily by an overwhelming flood of information via the media, being short and concise in text is vital to grab a reader’s attention. A poet friend of mine once defined poetry as “saying as much as possible in as few words as possible.”

If that’s the case, then copywriters are becoming poets!!