Many years ago, when I was cutting my teeth as a business writer, I made the same mistake. Then my editor told me to go back over my copy and edit out every time I used the word “that.” He said it would make my copy stronger, and you know, he was right. Although the use of “that” might be grammatically correct, it is unnecessary and overused.
Now, there are times when you need to use the word “that,” but most times it is superfluous to the copy. Effective copy needs to be brief and clear. If you are using the word “that,” you are using too many words in your sentence. How can you cut back the sentence to make a more powerful and interesting statement?
Can you see the difference in this example?
- Original: Margot said that she was going to take dancing lessons so that she would someday become a great ballerina.
- Better said: Margot planned to take dancing lessons, hoping to someday become a great ballerina.
If it is a person, use “who.”
When writing about a person, use the word “who” instead of “that,” as in this example:
- Original: The man that held the door was wearing a green uniform.
- Better said: The man who held the door wore a green uniform.
Hire an Expert Business Copywriter
When you’re considering hiring a copywriter, ask for writing samples, and note how many times you see the word “that.” If it is used more than a few times, you’ll know you’re working with a beginner, and may not get the best bang for your buck. It’s a quick way to tell.
When you need powerful, effective business writing, hire an expert. Contact All the Buzz.
I learned a technique as a magazine writer. As an exercise, we wrote a sentence or paragraph using ordinary words, as in this example:
- John went to the store to buy bananas.
Then we had to replace the ordinary words and phrases with more descriptive ones, as in this example:
- John lumbered into the small neighborhood grocery on his quest for the most perfectly ripe bananas to please his perfectionist mother.
The first sentence merely says what he does, the second sentence tells a whole story.
By simply expanding your vocabulary you can wake up your copy, make it inviting and exciting, and attract customers. After all, we don’t buy the product itself, we actually buy if for what it does for us or how it makes us feel.
Does Your Copy Just Say What You Do, or Does it Tell a Story?
How can you use an expanded vocabulary to better describe your business in a way that tells your story? Continue reading →