Be Bold. Don’t Hedge
This little warning came up
Qualifiers Take the Umph Out of Your Credibility
Take a look at this paragraph from a blog post:
There are myriad reasons why these challenges may arise. Most of the challenges discussed are related in some way and the occurrence of one challenge may directly (or indirectly) cause or affect another. Busy work environments and miscommunication in mental health organizations are likely to cause the most problems when it comes to staff unrest. Although these elements can be corrected, Workplace culture may still suffer if it is not addressed in a timely manner.
Now look at the edited version:
There are myriad reasons why these challenges arise — and one tense situation brings on another. Busy work environments and miscommunication in mental health organizations lead to staff unrest. Address these issues in a timely manner, or your workplace culture will suffer. ***
If you’re a director desperate to improve counselor retention for your substance use treatment center, which paragraph inspires confidence?
(***note, I’m only editing for qualifiers. I need a few more passes to elevate this to interesting)
The paragraph’s meaning didn’t change when we took out the qualifiers and the edits amplified its authority.
I debated “myriad” but if I took that one out, it actually would have changed the meaning… and that’s the point. If a qualifier isn’t essential to make your meaning clear, it does the opposite.
Questionable qualifier phrases that kill your cred
“I think that…”
Of course, you think that… You’re the writer. But when you say “I think” you’re calling attention to the fact that it’s just you.
If your opinion is based on research and your own professional experience, don’t undercut yourself and make it seem like you’re out there all alone. You’re not.
“I think that workplace culture may still suffer if these issues aren’t addressed.”
Aaagh?! Two qualifiers in the same sentence? That’s more watered-down than happy-hour margaritas at Applebees.
“Workplace culture may still suffer if these issues aren’t addressed.”
“Workplace culture will suffer if these issues aren’t addressed.”
Now you’re owning your position.
“Seems that” or “appears to”
When you’re asking prospects to believe you and invest in your service, don’t make them question the reality of their problem or of your solution.
This is Hedging 2.0. If the statement isn’t true enough to carry itself, does it need to exist?
“May” or “Possibly” (or “Might,” “Can,” “Could,” “Should,”… etc.)
“But Lora, what if the unimaginable happens… busywork and miscommunication DON’T result in tension and dissatisfaction among the counseling staff and someone confronts me on LinkedIn with a ‘Neener-neener-neener’?”
Guess what? You’ve got a conversation starter!
Don’t Overwork Your Reader
Readers don’t want a Pemberley-esque maze of possibilities that involves connecting a whole chain of “maybes” and “what-ifs.”
To a business decision-maker, mazes of possibilities are potential minefields.
They need a clear message they can evaluate.
They also want to know they can trust you. That’s the whole point of content marketing — you’re building trust because you’re demonstrating your empathy and expertise.
Have faith in what you say so they can, too.
In the Words of Berlin, “No More Words…”
Content writing is a juggernaut for educating and building trust.
But reading words on a screen is hard. Respect your reader’s effort.
You only have a few seconds to capture your reader’s attention before they click away. Each sentence needs to keep hold of that attention and entice them to the next sentence.
Every word needs to work hard.
Qualifiers are slackers.
The magic’s in the editing, not the writing
When you write your draft, don’t worry about the qualifiers.
Let them spill onto the page along with the important words because you’re still working out your thoughts. Don’t make them justify their existence yet.
When it’s time to edit, be merciless. If they don’t make your meaning more clear, delete them into oblivion.
A Word to Digital Marketers
If you’re a digital marketing manager working with content writers, novice content writers will write paragraphs loaded with qualifiers. In fact, our example paragraph was written by a novice copywriter commissioned from an online service. She didn’t know her audience or her topic well enough, so she lacked confidence.
If you work with generalists or inexperienced copywriters, you’ll need to edit their work or their inexperience could…
… or their inexperience WILL jeopardize your trust-building efforts.
This is why niched content writers are so valuable. When writers know their topic, you save a ton of time. Time is $$$.
Be Bold. Don’t Hedge
You’re an expert in your field. Your company is innovative and driven by a desire to make the world better… you’re persuading partners to come along for the ride.
Your prospects and clients need your insights.
Weigh your words. Stand behind them. Be bold.
Lora is a white paper content strategist who will write your beautiful white paper and then show you how to take that research and content and use it to structure your entire content strategy — amplifying your message and bringing a ton of value to your project.