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Latest Issue: Nov/Dec 2018

Don’t return to “learn” and “earn”

How can it be that in a highly sophisticated, highly competitive direct response universe professional communicators still are excreting words that lack competitive impact?

Readers of this publication know very well how word-choice affects response. They long since have recognized – even subliminally – that simple word substitutions can slide response up or down. They know that “learn” and “earn” say to a professional target-individual, “You’re on a level lower than I am.” And without either party being quite conscious of the stratification, persuasive efficiency loses a few points.

The imperative for wordsmiths is what it always has been and what it constantly intensifies as both the number of media and the number of “Do business with me” messages increases. (Increases? With Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and whatever, our typical targets have a skeptical finger constantly poised just above the “Delete” key.)

Take these out.

We as force-communicators don’t relinquish force by implying to those from whom we’re trying to generate a response, “You’re the decision-maker.” We gain empathy and rapport, vital elements in establishing and maintaining a relationship.

“Learn” and “earn” are easy and obvious. But how do we tell someone the conclusion he or she has reached isn’t accurate? Do we say, “incorrect”? Do we say, “wrong”? Do we say, “mistaken”? As raw rhetoric, any of these can fit. Each has its own dynamism or lack thereof. Each dictates a creative decision: as the fragile roof over the proposition, do we say, “You are...” or “You may be...” or “I fear you may be” or “Look out”?

The author of the glorious truism, “All generalisations are false, including this one,” may have been the American author Samuel Clemens. It may have been international genius Albert Einstein. It may have been a philosopher from a millennium ago, contemplating each say’s sameness because social media hadn’t yet plastered itself onto the communications universe.

Regrettably for those of us who enjoy discovering and implementing rules, recognition that what we espouse is valid only 95 percent of the time validates that ancient saw rather than eliminating it. To which we should say, “So what?” We’ll settle for 95 percent.

So why not scour your messages for words and phrases that transmit “You’re one of the mob” and replace them with more motivational terms? Forever, don’t again tell a reader or a listener, “You’re among....? Let words such as utilize and perhaps rest in peace. And arrange to endure a nasty electric shock as a reminder, if you accidentally try to sell anything to anybody by saying, “You must....”

The world will be a better place. Or at least, your world will be a better place.

by Herschell Gordon Lewis, President, Lewis Enterprises