Use a rhyme to land your message in time

How does the language you use affect how people perceive your brand? Does every word really count? Hannah Moffatt believes so. She’s creative director at Schwa, a team of writers and behavioural scientists helping organisations communicate more effectively. According to Hannah, there are 11 learnings from behavioural science that can help anyone master the art of “nudgy writing”.

She told the Mindlab Academy about her favourite insights from the guide Schwa recently developed on the topic, The End of the Hunch.

Step out of your bubble

“The more you know about something, the harder it is to imagine what it’s like to not have that knowledge,” Hannah tells us. “Behavioural scientists call that the ‘Curse of Knowledge’ and it’s real. It’s something I see every day. You get so close to the organisation you work in: you know its nuances, its internal language, the politics of why you say one thing over another. That’s so ingrained that you forget your wider audience doesn’t have the same knowledge as you. It becomes impossible to step out of your bubble.”

“My job is to burst that bubble. I go into companies and ask: ‘Why would your customers want to read that? Why will it interest them? What do they really need to know? Is that language they’d use or understand?’. Sometimes you need to take that step back to write something compelling that leads to action rather than confusion!”

Order your points

“In memory tests, if you give people a list of 15 or 20 items, almost everyone remembers the first and last things on the list. So always put your most important point first and end with a bang. And if you’re writing ads or packaging (or anything else really) keep the middle snappy, too. Readers are impatient, so you don’t have long to get your point across.”

Paint a picture

“In his book The Sense of Style, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker says a third of our brains are dedicated to vision. He describes experiments showing that readers ‘understand and remember material far better when it is expressed in concrete language that allows them to form visual images.’”

“A great example of this is our approach to the environment. In the UK at least, it felt like people were slow to kick the single-use plastic habit. Then Blue Planet let the world actually see the damage plastic was doing. Now it’s unusual to see people walking around without reusable water bottles and coffee cups.”

Frame the message

“We’re storytelling animals but generally, we’re not that great with numbers. As writers, it’s up to us to frame data to get the outcome we’re after. If you’re selling burgers, for example, would customers rather buy one that’s 75% lean or 25% fat? The ingredients are the same either way, but instinctively, I’d be drawn to the one that calls itself lean.”

Rhymes chime

“Another great tip is to use rhymes. They’re not just more memorable – research shows people believe them more. It’s called the ‘Rhyme As Reason Effect’. You see it in ads and slogans, such as ‘A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play’.”

For more tips to become an expert in nudgy writing and the science behind it all, download Schwa’s guide.


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