Writing Effective Descriptions by Avoiding Ambiguous Adjectives

Adjectives; we all know what those are. They’re those words we use to describe something. Something may be big or small, pretty or ugly, dark or light, or old or new. But what do all those words mean anyway?

Big as a house. A house in one part of the world may be one room with ten people living in it. In another part of the world, that house might fit within the guest bathroom.

To some the “big house” could be the largest house in town or the local jail.

That’s the problem with using adjectives to describe things – perspective. When trying to sell something, you first need to identify your audience and evaluate how they define the words you use in your marketing materials.

One Word, Many Meanings

To most of us the Model-T automobile is the stuff of history. To the 106 year old woman being interviewed on her birthday, the Model-T is still the stuff of excitement and wonder. Again, it’s all about perspective.

Sticking with our old versus new concept, I picked up my trusty thesaurus and looked for the word “old”. The first thing I noticed was that the thesaurus has split up the synonyms for old into 14 groups – meaning the authors saw at least 14 different meanings for this word.

Looking at the 14 groups of definitions, it is easy to see how differently people can view the same small word. The synonyms included: bygone, obsolete, ancient, early, experienced, enduring, dilapidated, wise, dear, former, elderly, and long ago. All of those words evoke emotional responses – some positive, some not so positive.

Old house could describe a dilapidated wreck ready to collapse. Old house could also describe an early example of Italianate architecture, that has been fully restored to it’s former glory. Will your customer assume old house to mean the first or the second description? Which one is more effective copy?

Writing Effectively Means Avoiding Ambiguity

The trick when writing effective copy is writing effective descriptions that make adjectives work for you and not allow them to create ambiguity. Often the best choice is to avoid them completely and draw pictures using words that convey a common meaning and emotion.

Realtors figured out these tricks of language a long time ago. Small has become quaint or cottage-like, out in the middle of nowhere has become exclusive or quiet, the tiny kitchen is charming and the small master bedroom becomes romantic. Ambiguity, for them, was transformed into clever marketing.

It continues to amaze me that so many SEO copywriters have yet to understand that words like big, small, pretty, ugly, old, new, and a whole host of others mean different things to different people and should only be used in website copy or sales copy sparingly.

Whether you came to my website looking for a professional writer or looking for tips to write your own materials; consider your current materials, look over every word and sentence and then ask yourself – how do my customers define that word or phrase and does it match what I’m trying to convey?

Once you answer that question, you can begin working on ways to improve your marketing copy and make your product or service more attractive to your potential customers.

Let me know if you need any help.