Copywriting for print

Why mum isn’t always the word – picking the right words for the right people

As a middle-aged rural Irish man, when I think of the woman that gave birth to me, she will only ever be ‘Mammy’ or maybe ‘Ma’. I have no objection to words like ‘Mum’ or ‘Mother’ but they are just words I never used or were never used in my family. We attach baggage to words they never need to carry. It’s up to marketers and copywriters to know what language is the right language.

Ah, yes, back to target audience again. Will I ever get sick of writing about target audience? Do I ever stop thinking about it when writing on any project? Never. It’s one of the first things I do. Get a mental picture of who will be reading what I’m writing and what words will work and what words won’t.

People will engage with your message when they are comfortable and relaxed. Language has an odd effect on people. Stilted, complicated language like we often associate with the legal world can scare us. Overly simplistic language makes us wary. Others can be determined to take offence and a stray cultural reference from any writer can do that with ease. If you write copy, it’s your job to communicate easily and directly. You don’t want people focussing on the words too much. You just want to get through to them, make a connection.

If they’re busy pondering over words that mean little or nothing to them, they’re not thinking about the message you’re trying to get across. In Ireland, we’ve developed a habit of taking perfectly fine English words and altering them to make them our own. Just like a tailor. Or a thief (!). This makes writing for an Irish audience a little different than the same category of people/target audience across the Irish sea.

Here’s a good example. Football to me will always be Gaelic Football. But to some friends of mine, that is and has never been the case and football is reserved only for association football. I call that soccer. Hardened rugby folk have been known to call their game ‘football’ too. And that’s just in Ireland. On a similar theme, sporting people in two Australian cities are thinking of a completely different sport when they both talk about ‘footie’.

Ok, rambling a little now. The point has been made. The words we use everyday are formed and moulded in the background by our culture, rituals and habits. It’s up to copywriters to know the right ones to use.

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