“Since the old brain is not qualified to process written language, the use of words — especially complicated ones — will slow down the decoding of your message and automatically place the burden of information processing onto the new brain. Your audience will want to ‘think’ about making the decision more than they will want to ‘act’ on that decision.” — p13, Neuromarketing
Intuitively I know that simple words are more effective, more powerful than multi-syllable, complex ones.
I just didn’t know why…until now.
Sure, I know that Flesch–Kincaid readability tests show the school grade level that the writing appeals to. It’s done by counting the number of words, sentences and syllables and then plugging them into a complex formula that spits out the supposed school grade level of the writing. Of course with computers, this is done instantaneously by software.
But most people misinterpret the purpose of this readability score to mean they need to dumb down their writing so less educated people can understand it. That’s not the reason.
One might suppose that using simpler words and shorter sentences is helpful because theoretically, it reaches a wider audience. However, it delivers the wrong message that would deliver the wrong message, leading some writers to believe that if they want to reach a more sophisticated, better-educated reader, they need to use bigger words. And that would be wrong. Some might even conclude that using bigger words makes THEM sound smarter. That would also be wrong.
The association with school grade level is the culprit here.
One of the misunderstandings is that complex concepts need complex words to explain them and smarter people use this “jargon” to help them explain it to others. Of course, that’s utter nonsense, as you’re about to find out.
Before I understood the truth behind the reason why shorter-simpler words and shorter sentences are more powerful I needed to understand a little bit about neuroscience (whoa, why the big word, kemosabe? I just threw that in there for a laugh. LOL)…just a big word for the study of the brain.
Brain science tells us that there are actually three parts to the brain:
The First or Primitive Brain (aka “Old Brain”)
The Middle Brain
The New Brain
And as you can tell from the quote at the top of this page if you want your reader to “act” you need to appeal as closely as possible to the “Old/First/Primitive” brain. And that means words with few syllables, sentences with fewer words, if possible. This doesn’t mean you can’t use complex words, especially if you really need them. But the closer you can get to explaining whatever it is you have to say by using simpler words and sentences, the more likely you are to be getting through to the decision center of the brain which is where the decision to buy is located.