Three Things to Consider With Brand Voice and Word Choice
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” John Keating, Dead Poets Society
Think about one of your favorite brands for a minute. Now, think about a piece of your favorite content from that brand. Finally, look at the precise words they use in that content.
What do you like about the words they use?
Your voice is like a fingerprint for your brand. It is unique to you and your style. It’s recognizable. In this article, we’ll cover words and the three most important things that impact your brand voice.
Why Do Words Matter in Your Brand Voice?
Brand voice is transmitted through the words you choose (and the tone and cadence; we’ll get to those in other articles). Words carry more than definitions, although that is one part of it. They also have nuance and difficulty levels.
The interplay of meaning, nuance, and difficulty creates the “word” part of your brand voice.
Words have definitions. When you write to convey information, the meanings of the words are the foundation of everything else about the words.
For example, eat vs. consume.
Eat means to put (food) into the mouth, chew, and swallow it. Consume means to eat, drink, or ingest (food or drink) or to use up.
The meanings are similar but still a little different. If you were writing content for your brand, would you choose to use “eat” or “consume?”
This is when I spend time looking at definitions. I want to choose the word that best conveys the meaning I’m going for.
For example, in a presentation I created, I used “complexity” rather than “difficulty.” When I started digging into the meanings of those two words, I realized that the one I really wanted was “difficulty.” (Complexity means being intricate or complicated, whereas difficulty means something that needs skill or effort to accomplish, deal with, or understand.)
Sometimes, though, the meaning isn’t clear cut – like the example of “eat” and “consume.” That’s where nuance comes in.
Nuance is a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound. Using nuance in your writing allows you to add interest and color. You can also add personality using nuanced language and phrasing.
If we go back to “eat” vs. “consume” example from earlier, we know the meaning between the words is really similar. But there is a nuance between these two words to consider.
Eat is a broader, more accessible term. Consume is a more formal and academic term. (Yup, nuance comes into play with tone, too. More about that in the next article.)
Here’s another example: noncomparable vs. incomparable
Noncomparable means not suitable for comparison. Incomparable means not suitable for comparison AND without an equal in quality or extent; matchless.
Apples and oranges are incomparable and incomparable. The view from the top of a mountain over a valley full of wildflowers, waterfalls, and green meadows is incomparable.
Which is correct? It depends on how you’re using the word, the context, and which feels right to your brand voice.
Nuance can create tone shifts and create a higher energy voice or a lower, more relaxing tone.
Nuance is one of those things you can have fun playing around with when drafting and editing.
And, there’s something beyond nuance. It’s about the difficulty of words.
“Difficult” means needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand. For your writing, it means do you want the words you use to be easy or harder to understand? Sometimes a more complicated word doesn’t mean it is the best choice for your brand voice.
The normal way of determining difficulty is to use the grade level. Hemingway is an online tool you can use to see what grade level your writing is. It can be a great way to gauge if your copy is easily readable and digestible or if it comes across as a little too academic and hard to understand.
Let’s stay with eat vs. consume. “Eat” has a grade level of 0. Almost anyone can understand what that means! On the other hand, “consume” has a grade level of 12. Consume, a word we dietitians like to toss around a lot, is generally understood by someone in the 12th grade and over! That’s not to say that it isn’t important to use in your copy. Just be aware of your audience when being precise with your words.
So, in addition to meaning and nuance, considering the difficulty of the words you use helps establish your brand voice.
All Together Now
When working on your brand voice and choosing the words you use, think about meaning, nuance, and difficulty.
When I’m writing, I start by looking up the meanings of keywords.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
“Eating more fruits and vegetables can be challenging for a lot of people.”
“Consuming more fruits and vegetables can be challenging for a lot of people.”
When you’re choosing between words – like eat and consume – think about the meaning, nuance, and difficulty. I think the first example is great for the general public, while the second is better for a more educated audience or a professional or academic audience.
That said, maybe your brand voice is highly professional and gives advice to the general public. Then, maybe “consume” would be the right choice in order to keep that appeal to authority.
There’s no right or wrong in voice. It’s all about you, your brand, and your audience.
Want Help Creating Your Brand Voice?
If you want to get your brand voice pinpointed, you can reach out to me, and we can chat. My “Pinpoint Your Brand Voice” package includes everything you need to help you identify your brand voice, document the key elements, and how to use the tools to recreate it every time. We’ll also take some writing you’ve done and tweak it to match your ideal writing voice. All you have to do is book a free, no-pressure, no-obligation call with me so we can talk about it. Pretty cool, right?