Now, I make no bones about it. Do NOT use my stuff as a model, ‘cause the
last thing I’m about is writing basic English. You get me as I am. And that’s a
perfectly acceptable model - you gotta figure you’re never going to appeal to
all the folks all the time no matter what you do. Sometimes you choose to
“target” your writing.
But I know some of you out there need to communicate effectively with those
for whom English is a second language (hi, Faith!). So here’s what you do:
· Use short sentences
15 to 20 words, and 20 words puts you close to the danger zone. Writing
concise, direct sentences is most of the battle.
· Use simple sentence constructions
Subject - verb - object (if any), followed by any extra information. You
start confusing folks when you insert lots of phrases between the core
elements of a sentence.
· Use the
When you use passive verbs, you risk making your meaning ambiguous.
· Avoid “phrasal” and “modal auxiliary” verbs
Phrasal verbs have two or more words, verbs like call up, pull
in, pick away at and drop down. Choose a one-word verb
that says the same thing.
Modal auxiliary verbs include stuff like should, could, can, would,
might and may.
A representative should contact you within 48 hours.
Does that mean he will, he might not, he has a moral obligation to or
that it could take longer than 48 hours? Native English readers understand
these words based on context. They usually confuse non-native English
· Use pronouns clearly
Notice the last two sentences in the previous section. The “they” in the
last sentence refers to a noun in the previous sentence, but which one?
Words? Native English “readers”? Or did I make a grammatical mistake and
refer in the plural to “context”? See what I mean?
· Use simple, common words with clear meanings
· Use positive language
Stay away from negative constructions (which can be hard to translate)
and negative images (which are depressing and can be insulting). “Don’t you
just hate it when …” is a negative construction (don’t) with a negative
image (hate). Double negatives (as in “not uncommon”) are doubly
· Avoid clichés and slang
I wrote “I make no bones about it.” Can you imagine what that means to
this audience? Nothing.
· Proof very carefully
Writing that is grammatically correct and free of typos is enormously
important with this audience! These folks are generally good with English
grammar and if you break the rules, you risk confusing them.
· Get some help
If you know people who speak English as a second language, ask them to
read your copy for clarity and to help you identify potentially offensive
language. This is especially important if you are using humor.
P.S. If you want to study a good model for International English, pick up a
copy of the
Herald Tribune, a
newspaper that writes in English for a global audience.
P.P.S. About those flags, animated and otherwise … ditch ‘em. If you offer
your site in multiple translations, use the correct name of the language instead
of the country’s flag for identification. Which flag would you use for English
(you can choose from USA, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and
Singapore)? And which of four languages would you be indicating by using the
I want to apologize to all our readers who couldn't
access our last article "The
10 Myths of Internet Marketing." We had such an
incredible response to the
last issue that our server got overloaded.
We just came back from Austin, TX where we enjoyed
the company of a couple of dozen people for the
Wizards of Web workshop. What did our attendees
have to say:
R.L. said: "3 days at WOW
crystallized 7 years of marketing online. I thought
I knew how to convert a visitor – but I didn’t –
with WOW under my belt, I intend to conquer my
little parts of the web world."
E.G. said: "All I can
say is one word: WOW! I just got back from the
Wizards of Web Academy in Austin -- which was 3 days
of in-depth information on how to make your web site
really sell. Up to this point I had been to many
events, but had never walked away really satisfied."
We'll be offering another 3-day
Wizards of Web workshop 7/31/02-8/2/02 and a 1-day
of Conversion Rate Marketing" on July
Let us know if you want to be included on our
advanced notice list for events
CIO, Future Now, Inc.
P.S. Do you have questions you would like to see
A Marketing Marriage Made in Heaven
A (long) while back we talked about
that online technique that harnesses the distinctly human tendency to tell
others about their experiences and turns it to your advantage.
Course, you can sit around twiddling your thumbs hoping folks chat up your
site to others. Or you can get your ducks in a row and create an extremely
effective program that actually drives viral marketing and helps you build your
qualified house list.
Guess which way is the Grok Way?
With all the buzz about email marketing list strategies, who do you think has
the best (and cheapest) lists going? If you answered “Why, my delighted
customers, Grok” then take two giant steps forward! Take a happy customer and
her dense email address book, and you’ve got the raw materials for a marketing
marriage made in heaven. Now you just have to help it along.
Remember the ducks?
Duck Number One - Delight!
I did say happy, delighted customers. Before you start directing
people to your site, make sure the entire experience is going to leave them
delighted. Viral marketing works both ways, except folks are much happier to
relate bad experiences than good ones. The last thing you want is for your viral
marketing efforts to blow up in your face!
Duck Number Two - Ask!
You are far more likely to get action if you ask for it. As a general rule of
thumb, create an eye-catching graphic button for a Web site (remember: Flash is
trash and animations irritate like crazy), a hyperlink for an email. Put one
near the top (catch them when they are first engaged) and also at the bottom
(catch them when they’ve gone through the information). Your referral tool must:
·Stand out from the clutter of the page without taking up too
much valuable above-the-fold real estate
· Be placed effectively - at the point where your visitors or
readers are most interested
· Embody a clear call to action
· Provide clear instructions on how folks can use it
· Provide assurance - it doesn’t need to be a fine-print legal
Duck Number Three - Reward!
Add an incentive to your viral marketing request and you dramatically boost
the odds your customers will make a referral. Let’s face it … many browsers give
folks the ability simply to email the Web page or forward an email to their
friends, which doesn’t give you the names.
The key is to keep your incentive intrinsic to your audience, so the referral
brings you a qualified registrant, subscriber or buyer. If you give away
something everyone wants - say a television - you’ll get lots of names of people
who aren’t the sort of qualified customers you’re looking for. Think
Verdi-CD-to-an-opera-club, or free shipping on your next order or entry in a
Generally, a coupon isn’t the incentive most folks think it is. To be an
effective reward, the coupon has to be pretty compelling, like substantial
savings for stuff your customers already buy regularly. And it turns out
percent-off coupons work better than dollars-off (or whatever monetary unit you
trade in) coupons.
Duck Number Four - Track and Test!
You are never going to learn which combination of elements works best in your
situation unless you track all your results and test repeatedly. Tracking and
testing will let you tweak both your referral tool and your incentives so you
get the best bang for the buck.
My friends Bryan Eisenberg and Brad Powers summed up the power of viral
marketing this way:
“When used properly, nothing can match the power of viral marketing. It
is so effective because it is based on personal opinion, much the same way
an editorial carries more weight than an advertisement because it’s coming
from a trusted source. You trust your friends and colleagues to send you
material that is interesting, useful and pertinent to you personally. Trust
will always be more powerful than flashy design and expensive ad campaigns.”1
So what are you waiting for?
Power Viral Marketing Primer: Buttons, Links and Clicking - Oh My!” Brad
Powers and Bryan Eisenberg. Adventive.