Have pity for the poor sentence that is asked to do too much
I did promise not to get all grammatical in these blog posts, and I'm not going to bring out the chalkboard today. I'll only make a quick mention of nouns and verbs. You can say a lot with just a pair of nouns and a verb.
You probably remember: A noun is a thing, and a verb is what the thing does. If you have a company - for instance, Niftycorp - that's a noun. If you introduce a product, "introduce" is a verb. And "product"? That's another noun.
Now, in a product announcement you need a few additional words or else you'll sound like Tonto: "Mmmm, Kemosabe. Niftycorp introduces product." But watch out when you start loading up the sentence with details.
Here’s how it typically starts. Your company is announcing its brand new line of framdoodles. You start writing,
“Niftycorp has introduced its new line of framdoodles.”
It’s better than Tonto, but still not very good. It does tell me what the product is, but it doesn’t tell me what’s so new and special about it. So you expand it to,
“Niftycorp has introduced its new line of color-coded framdoodles.”
Ah, that’s good. Of course we have to include our trademarked product name:
“Niftycorp has introduced its new line of Framtastik® color-coded framdoodles.”
Oh, and don’t forget that the Big Boss wants us to play up the product’s durability.
“Niftycorp has introduced its new line of Framtastik® shock-resistant, color-coded framdoodles.”
But wait, there’s more!
While you were writing all that, a few more important people have weighed in with their suggestions. Before long, you have an announcement that says,
“Niftycorp has introduced its new line of Framtastik® shock-resistant, color-coded, industrial strength, environmentally friendly, anodized, high-throughput, permeable framdoodles.”
Of course, you can’t pass up a chance to tout the company itself. And you need to identify your target audience. And you want to show the company’s reach.
“Niftycorp, the leading provider of provision leadership solutions to the cost-object deliverables industry in the greater tri-state metroplex, has introduced its new line of Framtastik® shock-resistant, color-coded, industrial strength, environmentally friendly, anodized, high-throughput, permeable framdoodles.”
If you can’t tell yet what’s wrong with that, try reading the sentence out loud. Now try doing it in one breath.
Yes, you have many important points to convey. But when you try to make everything stand out as important, nothing stands out as important. So start with a couple of nouns and a verb. Lightly sprinkle them with one or two ultra-important bits of information, like the product name and what’s new about it. Save the other important information for later sentences.
Pick up some of your marketing materials and read them out loud. Do you start stumbling over sentences that are trying to do too much? Do you run out of breath? If so, take a deep breath and start splitting the message into manageable loads.
Robert has been a business journalist for 22 years, both as a reporter and an editor. He joined Business Communications Group in 2005.
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