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Thursday 23rd May 2013 /
It’s hard to argue with the value of clear communications. After all, what company wants confusing, jargon-filled copy? But is ‘plain English’ really the answer? And is there a way to be plain without being, well, plain?
Bear in mind that simplicity is not the same as clarity. As Richard Saul Wurman – a pioneer in the practice of making information easily understandable – notes: clarity is essential to understanding, while simplicity often involves removing the most interesting or informative points.
Clarity comes with confidence – knowing what your brand is about and how you want to convey your message. You don’t have to over-explain or ‘dumb down’ your copy. Give your audience some credit. There’s nothing to stop you from introducing new and interesting words and descriptions in your writing. As long as it is clear, then the reader will ‘get it’.
Write with personality
Every person has a distinct tone of voice – a way of speaking that is unique to them. This could be characterised by particular words, phrases or verbal tics. Likewise, every business has a unique tone of voice, which should shine through in all of your communications.
Shorter isn’t always better
Yes, you want your copy to be clear and concise – but this doesn’t always mean that the piece has to be short in length. In fact, cutting words can often lessen the impact of your copy.
Longer, more detailed writing works well in some situations, for example, ads on the underground, which people have got the time to stop and read. Also, change the pace of your writing by varying sentence length – it all helps to keep your reader hooked.
Need a hand making your copy plain, but not boring? Contact Ink on 01225 731 373.
What would Halloween be without a touch of the macabre? So in the true spirit of All Hallows' Eve, we’ve dug up the grim origins of some of our most common expressions.
Premature burial was once a very real possibility. ‘Saved by the bell’ – when a last minute intervention saves you from disaster – is thought to derive from the 17th century practice of morticians tying a bell to the toe or finger of a corpse. So if not actually dead, the ‘body’ could ring it inside the coffin and hopefully be dug up.
The saying ‘Money for old rope’, which means an easy way to make cash, may have been an ancient term for when the hangman’s noose was sold to the crowds as a memento after a public execution.
‘Warts and all’ supposedly alludes to puritan Oliver Cromwell’s request to be painted exactly the way he was, without any flattering retouches.
To ‘have your guts for garters’ – with its lovely rhythmic alliteration – means a threat of a serious reprisal. This began in the Middle Ages, when disembowelment was a common form of torture and execution.
It’s also been suggested that ‘A skeleton in the closet’ – a secret source of shame which a person or family makes efforts to conceal – comes from the notorious, pre-19th century body snatcher era, when doctors needing cadavers to examine concealed illegally acquired skeletons in cupboards.
‘Between the devil and the deep blue sea’ could point to the bygone practice of ‘paying’ in wooden ships. This was the dangerous task of using hot tar to waterproof the beams on the deck of a boat – between the ‘devil’ (the large wooden beam that supported the deck) and the ship's side. The process involved lengths of rotten rope that rained hemp fibre into your eyes and burning hot tar all over your body – as well as the possibility of being thrown overboard by the rolling ship.
English is a funny old thing. With so many words that sound the same, but are spelt differently, it’s easy to confuse your deserts and desserts. So here’s a handy little guide to help keep any confusion at bay – especially when writing in a hurry.
Compliment vs Complement
A cracking Chardonnay complements your food. But if it compliments the food (“what a lovely Dijon dressing you have on today”), you’re probably in a Disney film.
Bear vs Bare
Bear in mind, if you’re out in the bare Alaskan wilderness and a big, furry thing spelled ‘bear’ is coming at you with that gleam in its eye – it’s no good running, unless you’re bearing arms…
Dessert vs Desert
You just polished off a 72 hour, slow-cooked rib of beef – and are slightly vexed when the ‘desert menu’ (sic.) reads “Kalahari £7.95, Gobi £8, Mojave £8.95”. And if the Sahara’s the world’s largest dessert, where’s the giant cherry on top?
Palate vs Palette
It wouldn’t do much good to use your palette at a wine tasting – unless you brought an easel and a canvas too (good on you). We’d much rather use our palate to pick up on some big, bold flavours.
Effect vs Affect
Quite simply, effect = put into action/create an outcome, affect = act on/moves the mind. So you put a plan into effect, say something to that effect, or ‘his silence, in effect, confirmed the rumours’. As opposed to the weather, which affects your mood or the crops.
Practice vs Practise
“Let’s put our ideas into practice” said the noun. The verb scoffed and replied, “I’d rather practise juggling to be honest”.
Rain vs Rein vs Reign
During the reign of king Ferdinand, the rain in Spain stayed, erm, mainly in the plain. But reins help you hold your horses.
Stationery vs Stationary
How fitting these two are so similar… if only the stapler (stationery) would stay stationary on your desk and not disappear.