Copywriting for Toddlers

I’ve been in the communication business for as long as I can remember. There was that time I did play-by-play for kickball games while in elementary school. And the time I debated presidential politics while in high school. Or that time I “sold” my wife on agreeing to marry me.

But even an old hand like me needs a communication refresher course from time to time. And I’m getting an ongoing course from my two year-old son, Kieran.

Kieran knows I work, but that isn’t good enough for him. In true toddler style, he wants to know exactly what I’m doing at work. I don’t know about you, but trying to explain my work to a small person is not always easy.

But who cares if it’s easy? The point is that we have an audience craving to be told something, to be taught something, to understand something. And it’s our duty to communicate.

This concept applies nicely to copywriting. We always need to make sure that what we write and how we write it passes the toddler test. That is, we need to make sure that we get to the heart of the matter to be communicated — just like we do with a toddler who doesn’t care about all the extraneous detail.

So today, when you’re writing, ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I’m communicating about X? How would I explain this to a toddler?

Now, you might be wondering whether this is fair. After all, toddlers can’t understand complicated language, buzzwords, and the like. We’re adults, darn it!

Yes, but that’s the point! You probably don’t need complicated language, buzzwords and in-group language. That type of verbiage is probably getting in the way of effectively communicating what you need to communicate.

And what’s more, simple language, bottom-line language tends to be a whole lot better at making emotional or visceral connections with your audience. Which of these strikes you more:

Our integrated solutions address the synergies between competing stakeholders.

or

We help people find common ground.

Enough said. Simple wins. Toddlers win. Try it and see.

Update: Thanks to Neil Patel’s great blog post, I’ve become aware of my new favorite site, Unsuck It. The site begins by asking, “What terrible business jargon do you need unsucked?” Then it, well, un-sucks it by putting it into plain English. Brilliant.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn blog.

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