Mature audiences care about words

The language we use to talk to our audiences can make or break our credibility.

And with the disposable income of the over 50s calculated to be a significant catch, it’s worth taking time to think about the right words.

The BBC recently asked its audience about the language that they didn’t like. This was followed up in a major social media group, who identify as Radio 4 listeners who aren’t all middle-aged. (But they probably are.) A vast generalisation is that this audience is reasonably well educated, and while accepting that language evolves, still want ‘good’ English from communicators, that’s not simply a stream of buzz words.

Here are a few of the terms that were mentioned repeatedly as enough to throw your radio out of the window. If they excite that much wrath, they won’t be working to the good in your marketing communications either.

Going forward. First example of an unnecessary complication. Just because it’s used everywhere doesn’t make it right.

So … I’m guilty of this one, but it drives others nuts. Starting sentences, or even completely new topics, with ‘So’ is a habit that can get far too much.

Pre-book, pre-order, pre-prepare. My contribution. Who decided to put that pre- on verbs that are perfectly adequate as they stand? It annoys me enough that if a theatre or bookshop invites me to pre-anything, I don’t on principle, even if I want to. (We mature people can be like that.)

Very unique. It either is or it isn’t.

Quite unique. See above.

Was stood. Was sat. This is the passive voice. That means if I was sat, someone else has sat me there. Otherwise I was sitting. People like me do get very exercised over this, and it doesn’t matter that it’s ubiquitous and the argument is that it should therefore be accepted. It hurts when we see it written down. Admittedly, this does also come under the heading of regional differences, which is a completely different matter.

The verbing of nouns. (See what I did there?) As someone pointed out, ‘medalling’ seemed to become a word at the 2012 Olympics. Now the practice is everywhere, and we don’t like it.

Low hanging fruit. Just one example of phrases that get thrown in without deep thought, and therefore is seen as lazy. It’s also verging on marketing speak, which we don’t want in our consumer communications, thank you very much.

Room 101. Like ‘low hanging fruit’ it’s a contagious phrase that has spread everywhere. Other examples are available.

World beating. Dislike of this one is a criticism of a certain type of politician who thinks all of life is a competition. The danger of anyone else using the term is guilt by association.

World class. I come across this regularly in B2B marketing. Not anywhere as bad is ‘word beating’, but what does it actually mean?

Killer app. What do they kill?

Off of. Uggh.

Literally. Regularly used when the writer means anything but literally. I literally laughed my head off.

Challenges. I was quite surprised that this offended some. We talk about ‘challenges’ in B2B marketing because no one wants to talk about ‘problems’. I have been in the business long enough to remember when IBM said there are no such things as problems, only opportunities. I have no idea if people believed them.

It is hard to use the language of a group of people to which you don’t belong. I do understand. I struggled with writing for millennials on a car insurance project, and had to call on help from some current 20+ friends to take the patronising out of the copy.

It’s important to get the tone right for any audience. Mature consumers can be a demanding bunch, so checking your communications meet their approval is a worthwhile task.

Read more of my thoughts on copywriting for businesses of every size.

Visit my website for families with older relatives and friends.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels.

Writing about needs and desires of an older population – my top articles for 2016

Writing for older consumers

From retirement to end of life, our needs and desires continue to change.  And for marketing it’s really important to understand what drives older people as a group and as individuals, just as with any sector of the population.

As a student, a commissioning editor, a writer and a participant in supporting older people, I’ve learned a great deal about what’s considered valuable at this time of life.

My top articles on quality of life for an ageing population

Maintaining a great quality of life is paramount, regardless of whether we’re 60 or 99. I’ve written with that in mind and here are my top picks from 2016.

Choosing gifts for older people

  • Gift ideas. Whether it’s Christmas or another special day, choosing presents for older parents and grandparents can be difficult. I’ve always believed that we should choose something that’s luxurious, unusual or fun. Not something that emphasises a person’s age like a walking stick or a pill box might. So I searched out products that I thought would fit the bill and here’s the result. Last year I also looked at tasty food and drink ideas and some lovely presents for Mother’s Day.

Where to live as people age

  • Are retirement apartments the next step? We see them popping up everywhere but for whose benefit? Are they the dream scheme for developers or a really good idea for new retirees? I visited one London scheme to find out more.
  • Choosing a care home. There is plenty of advice on choosing care homes available. What I wanted to do with this article was examine how to get under the skin of a home to understand the commitment to care. These questions are all about things I didn’t know and rather wish I had.

Retailers and older people

What makes life fun in retirement?

Reviewing products and services

  • Tea for two and a night of luxury. In January I was invited to visit the Hilton on Park Lane for afternoon tea and a stay in one of their high-rise rooms. Was it an experience I would recommend for older people looking for an enjoyable weekend? Here’s my review.
  • The emergency smart card. A review of the EIO smartcard that lets you upload all the information that would be useful in an emergency to a secure site that’s accessible to emergency helpers with a smartphone such as contacts, health conditions and medicines. My review has helped EIO improve their service to make it really valuable to anyone who might need help one day.

Real life stories

  • Arranging dad’s funeral. When my dad died in September I suddenly found myself with a huge number of decisions to make just to arrange his funeral. I wrote this blog partly to let him know what we did and why – and also to help others know what they will have to think about.

Need marketing or writing help?

If you’d like to talk to me about communicating successfully with the rapidly growing sector of older people, just drop me a line at kathy@wrightwell.com.

No disrespect. Writing about older people

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Four years ago I started editing a website offering advice and shared experience for the family and friends of older people.

The content was a mile away from my usual diet of B2B and B2C marketing communications. And here was the problem. It required a completely different approach in the voice that we use.

Most of my “day-job” B2B clients want to appear professional and approachable without being over-friendly. They want to be enthusiastic without being over-zealous. And the B2C clients want a tone that defines their brand and appeals to consumer aspirations.

This project is quite different. There are plenty of topics here that come under the label of “eurgh”. We believe we can’t ignore them, so we approach at least some of them with a  dollop of humour. After all, it’s the grimaced smiles that get us through some of the darker days.

The trouble with the humour is that it has to sit alongside pieces that are just truly heart-rending, and we never want to offend or belittle the traumatic stories that some of our readers have to tell.

So we take it gently. We need to show respect to our readers who have volunteered to tell their stories of life with ageing and frail parents.

We always aim to be useful. We want our content to be  illuminating, enlightening and offer an opportunity to talk. We treat people’s stories and their pain with the honour they deserve. But when we have permission to smile and turn on the humour to get us through, we do.