Tuesday, October 18, 2005


"Be courteous and tactful as well as honest and diligent. All your doings are publicly known, and must therefore be beyond complaint or criticism. Complainants like a kindly hearing even more than a successful plea. Preserve dignity, but avoid inspiring fear. Be an artist in words, that you would be strong, for the pen and tongue are swords."

That instruction was given to the Egyptian civil service five thousand years ago. It is still remarkably appropriate today. Especially when dealing with buyers and users of your services, products, or visiters to your Web site. Clear writing with plain words are so important to sales and marketing, I've decided to pass along some notes about words and which to watch while writing. I'll post them in COPYWRITING BRAINWAVES from time to time.

Activate. does not mean to set a machine in motion,or to prompt a person to action.
For instance: "he was activated by the best intentions" is wrong. Use actuate.

Actually. An unnecessary, meaningless word.

Adjectives. An adjective should describe a noun more fully, as say, a black coat. It is wrong to use adjectives to give the noun some needless intensification or limitation. For instance: grateful thanks, true facts, usual habits, consequent results, definite decisions, unexpected surprise, real danger, integral part, grave crisis. By avoiding this, you avoid hackneyed phrases and tautology.

Affect, effect. Affect means to have an influence on, to produce an effect on, effect a change in. Effect means to bring about, have a result.

(Other examples of plain words to be continued later.)

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