Base your wording on your target audience

Today’s edition of Get to the Point took on the topic of using five-dollar words. Two copywriters, Simon Glickman and Julia Rubiner, claim that using a five-dollar words is OK because “people actually love the audacious use of language.”

Then there are people who claim that you should use only every day words, 50-cent words. Why? Because big five-dollar words alienate customers and sound elitist.

I disagree with both points.

There’s not just one rule to follow. You can’t use big words or every day words and expect great results. It just doesn’t happen like that.

You have to tailor your wording to your target audience. If your target audience is highly educated and love and understand industry buzz words, then use those five-dollar words. If your target audience is your every day Joe, then go with simple words.

The only magic formula is to know your target audience.


7 Responses to “Base your wording on your target audience”

  1. 1 Walt Kania October 12, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Better yet, use mostly ten-cent words and toss in a sawbuck now and then. Sticks like a burr. I once used “plethora” in a low-budget mailing piece and customers were quoting it back to my client six years later. Although they did mispronounce it.

  2. 2 Don October 17, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I totally agree. In our industry (office products & furniture) 84% of our buyers are women. Yet, when designing my marketing materials I try to focus on that target audience but when the materials go to the company owner for approval he rejects them as not being bold enogh (read masculine) or thinks I utilized too much color. I’ve finally gotten so I send the products to print and bypass the approval process. That gets me in hot water with the ‘boss’ but I receive better feedback from our customer base resulting on more orders. Same thing applies with your choice of verbage.

    Excellent point, thank you!

  3. 3 Michael October 17, 2007 at 11:37 am


    Sorry to hear about the boss. I had a similar situation at my previous employer. The president of the company “loved” marketing. The bad thing is that he was no good at it. So he would butt heads with our department and our director on some of our projects. His reasoning, he didn’t like their look or wording – it wouldn’t make him buy our service. Problem is our target audience aren’t executives pulling in over $500,000 per year. Our target audience were mom & pop aviation repair shops. His dictatorship on marketing and it needing to appeal to him really tripped up the success of many of our product offerings.

    Trust me, I feel your pain. 🙂

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Who am I ?

My name is Michael Morton. I believe in bringing energy and professionalism into the office, that knowledge is power, that leadership trumps management, that customers are more influential than advertisements, that content is king, and that two heads are better than one. I currently lead the marketing efforts of the Strategic Alliances department of my company. Let’s talk marketing!

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