Choose your words carefully

As I was going home late from work the other night on the tube I got wound up by a simple announcement from London Underground. I was told their was "a good service running on all lines". But I knew very well that there wasn't.

 Choose your words carefully

Because despite the fact that it was nearly 9pm, a Central Line train arrived that was too full for everyone to get on – including me.

I had to wait for the next train. So I stood on the platform muttering about them telling lies – good isn't a train I can't get on – what was happening was normal service.

Here are some tips for making sure you don't wind up your users and customers in a similar way.

  • Don't promise what you can't deliver
  • Don't use superlatives or marketing speak
  • Don't tell them something will be easy when it isn't
  • Don't tell them what to think about a product – let them make up their own minds

It’s not hard to make your customers happy and treat them properly using words that are accurate, helpful and usable.

Write in a specific way – for example, “it will take 6 minutes to complete this form”

  • Use plain and appropriate language
  • Be realistic and truthful
  • Explain the benefits and avoid the adjectives

Remember little words count – here, for me, it was the difference between good and normal which led to my getting cross. Don't describe something as good when it isn't. It devalues the meaning of good.

Check your site – have any of you got those kinds of words in the wrong place?

(And apologies to anyone who feels this post is a bit metro-centric. The theory applies equally everywhere.)