29 January 2024

Written by Nikola
The science of good copy: why behavioural economics should influence your words

Good writing involves a level of creativity. But great writing combines this with science and insights – or behavioural economics – to influence audiences. Here’s how.

As adults, we have to make a lot of decisions – from what you have for dinner and what car you drive to where you send your kids to school and which charity you support. Experts estimate we make anywhere between 70 and 35,000 decisions every day. No wonder adulting is hard.

Lucky for us, our brains create various shortcuts to help with the onslaught of decisions, getting us to move from one to the next seemingly without thinking. And while these shortcuts help us save time, they are also prone to biases, which influence the decisions we make.

So what does all this have to do with writing?

As marketers, our role is to get our audience to make decisions that will benefit our brand. And while it’s impossible to control our audience’s inherent biases, behavioural economics – the study of how people make decisions – shows that the smallest adjustments in how we present or talk about products, services or even ourselves, can make the biggest difference in decision making.

And, one behavioural economics tool, the EAST framework, is particularly useful in heping your customers make decisions.

Meet EAST

Originally developed for policymakers, the EAST framework principles also work well as a guide for marketers who want to apply behavioural insights to their campaigns and writing.

The principles are simple. According to EAST, influencing behaviour is about making your campaign/copy:

  • Easy
  • Attractive
  • Social
  • Timely

In this blog series, we’ll be looking at how to use each to fuel your writing.

Let’s start with easy.

Four ways to make your writing ‘easy’

Influencing audiences starts with removing any obstacles that might stop them from doing what we want them to do. We need to make the decision we want them to make the easiest option.

Here are four ways you can do that through your writing.

1. Replace jargon with simple language

Industry jargon and technical language can be hard to understand, and this can put people off. To make your writing more powerful, use simpler, everyday words that your readers can easily understand – and act on.

Try these easy word swaps:

Instead of Try 
Utilise Use
Demonstrate Show
Facilitate Help
Commence Start
Leverage Make the most of, use
Deliverables Impact, results, actions
Additional Extra
Invaluble Helpful, useful
Forward Send
Employees Our people

 

2. Simplify your message

We love Sara’s tennis ball analogy at Writers.

If I threw three tennis balls at you at once, you’d probably miss them all. But if I throw just one, you’ll likely catch it. This goes for writing. When you try to squeeze too many messages into your copy, your readers will miss most of them. So make sure you’re clear on the one key thing you want your reader to remember, and lead with that.

And if you need to communicate more complex messages, break them down into smaller, bite-sized content that’s easier to digest – or use clear headings and bullet points to make it easy to read.

Once you have your draft, edit mercilessly. Here’s an example:

Before
Making big financial decisions and managing everyday finances can feel daunting. Getting a clear understanding on how much you really spend and on what, can help you determine the steps to take in the short term to prioritise making important repayments.
The following money tips and tools can help you break down a potentially complicated process into simple, bite-sized steps.

After
It’s good to feel in control of your money – but that isn’t always easy when costs are going up and there’s a lot going on.
Start with these 6 simple tips. You’ll quickly see where your money is actually going – and how you can make sure you’re spending it on the things that matter most.

 

3. Get active and keep your readers moving

Use verbs, rather than nouns, to create a sense of energy and action in your writing, especially in your call to actions and headings. And don’t slow your reader down with passive language – active sentences are shorter, more direct and are generally more lively.

Imagine if the famous McDonald’s and Nike taglines were passive:

 

 

They have less impact, right?

 

4. Write like you speak

Think about the last conversation you had with someone. How did it sound? Was it stiff and formal? Or more authentic and free-flowing?

When we write as if we’re having a conversation, our copy becomes easier and more enjoyable to read and we can connect with our audiences better.

Here are some tips to make your writing more conversational:

  • Speak directly – use ‘we’ not your brand’s name, and you rather than ‘our clients’
  • Use contractions – ‘you’re’ not ‘you are’ and ‘we’ll’ not ‘we will’
  • Use anecdotes to add colour to your story

While you can’t change your audiences’ built-in biases, making your writing easier to read and understand will help persuade them to act.

Stay tuned for part 2 when we’ll dive into the next principle in the EAST framework – how to make any offer more attractive through words.

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