Subject Line:  The one stupid piece of advice you should never listen to! . . .

When you begin to study marketing, this simple piece of “Business Changing” advice is one of the first things you’ll learn…

When you start study copywriting, it’s also one of the first things you’ll learn…

However, the WAY it will change your business… depends on WHO you hear it from.

This one simple piece of advice is the unfortunate victim of a kind of “Chinese Whispers” (Can I say that these days? Maybe not…)

Perhaps I should say “Misheard Lyric” instead (You know, when someone sings the wrong lyrics to a song but they swear they’re the right ones.)

And by the time it gets passed down from marketing mentor to mentee, business coach to business owner and copy coach to aspiring copywriter… something critical has been lost in translation!

Let me explain…

We are often told how the average reading age of people is at the 5th grade level and how we need to write to that level.

This is when the mysterious “Misheard Lyric” factor kicks in and we are left with people being told to “Dumb Down” their writing or their marketing.

Now, I don’t know about you… but I don’t consider kids in the 5th grade to be dumb.

On the contrary… They are curious, inquisitive and have a mind hungry for information.

Personally… despite their valiant attempts to prove me and my position on this wrong, I don’t believe anyone is dumb.

And that belief helps me to connect with people in an authentic and genuine way.

So, is there a remedy to this “Misheard Lyric?”

Of course there is…

Knowledge Nugget #65: Simplify… Don’t Dumb Down

“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.” – David Ogilvy


There’s a HUGE difference between “Dumbing” something down and “Simplifying” it.

No one likes to be called (or think they’ve been called) stupid or dumb.

It’s insulting, condescending and shuts people (and their wallets) down, faster than Usain Bolt runs 100 metres.

Think about it… How would you react?

I know I don’t take too kindly to being called stupid. (Sadly it happened to me recently when I was in the US. It wasn’t pretty and now they are definitely off my Christmas list this year for sure!)

It has been said, Copywriting legend Gary Halbert wrote some of his best letters at the level of a 3rd grader.

But when you read the copy…

It’s not dumbed down at all…

It’s been simplified.

Here’s how…

Where a word can be exchanged with a simpler one… it is.

Where sentences can be shortened… they are.

Where words slow down the speed of the read or distract the reader… they are removed or changed.

At no time is the reader left thinking or feeling like they are stupid or dumb.

They fully “get” what is being said and unconsciously do the “Head Nod” of approval.

Gary Halbert simplified his writing… but never dumbed it down.

So the next time anyone tells you to dumb down your marketing, your message or anything else… RUN (don’t walk) away from them as fast as you can!

You are NOT marketing or selling to dumb people.

The quote by David Ogilvy will help you to remember the consumer isn’t a moron, dumb or stupid… they are your loved ones, your friends and perhaps best of all, they are the people who WILL give you money.

So why would you disrespect them?

How can you simplify your message?

What level are you writing to now?

Does your marketing pass the “Head Nod” test?

Until next week… be safe, take care and keep it simple J

Pauline xxx

Pauline Longdon

To get the right reading level, you need to know about the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level (Grade 4 – 6 is ideal) and the Flesch Reading Ease (between 70.0–100.0 is the score you want to get to be sure it’s easy to read.)

Don’t worry, you don’t need to work it out yourself. The Microsoft program Word has these built in to their spell/grammar check. But a word of warning… don’t rely on these scores too much. They’re a great guide but aren’t 100% reliable.

If you do writing with lots of bullets or a typical copy style format… it can skew your results.

The best test is to read it out loud and get other people to read it out loud too.


P.P.S. Speaking about keeping things simple… Have you ever read the lyrics to “Let it go” from the movie Frozen? Here’s a segment…

“My power flurries through the air into the ground, My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around, And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast, I’m never going back, the past is in the past…”

Now, this song has been sung by kids (and adults) all around the world… of all ages, including younger than grade 5.

The songwriters certainly haven’t made anyone feel stupid with their word choice. It’s intelligent, paints a powerful word picture and connects with the audience.

Word choice is so important!


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