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Word Choice in Even ...

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I recently made an online purchase from Canterbury of New Zealand which makes great stuff even if you don’t play rugby (I don’t).

After placing the order, I realized I had forgotten to plug in the discount coupon. I went back to the site and figured I would take a shot with the online chat function.

 

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Of course, the time difference between California and New Zealand meant a real-time exchange wasn’t possible. Still, look at the wording: “We’re not around, but we’d love to chat another time.” Contrast these words with the typical “Our agents are not currently available, but you can …”

Feeling the good vibe from the conversational language, I explained my dilemma in the contact-us box and received this response the next day.

 

Hi Lou,

Thanks for your email and order.

Not a problem, I have processed the $5 refund back to the credit card used to place the order.

Thank you Lou.

Kind regards,
Jennifer | canterburyofnz.com
Online Sales Support
DDI | +64 4 566 6779

 

Let’s zero in the three words, “Not a problem.”

It seems like a small thing, but read the same note without that phrase:

 

Hi Lou,

Thanks for your email and order.

I have processed the $5 refund back to the credit card used to place the order.

Thank you Lou.

Kind regards,
Jennifer | canterburyofnz.com
Online Sales Support
DDI | +64 4 566 6779

 

The first note feels like it comes with a personal touch. The second note appears lifted from the library of stock answers (though I recognize the real note wasn’t conjured out of thin air either).

Furthermore, you don’t have to command a gift of narrative and vocabulary à la Philip Roth to apply this technique.

A few years ago, UC Berkeley announced a 25-year study on marriage with this opening graph.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage – and then what? That was the question bugging UC Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson in the 1980s when the U.S. divorce rate peaked at around 50 percent. So in 1989, he and fellow psychologists — John Gottman at the University of Washington and Stanford University’s Laura Carstensen — launched a longitudinal study of 156 middle-aged and older couples in the San Francisco Bay Area who had survived the slings and arrows of early wedlock, and were in it for the long haul.

The use of the decidedly unscientific word “bugging” in a scientific study lifts the narrative.

 

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One of my favorite examples of how one word or phrase can change the entire vibe of a communications involved the bios of scientists at Bell Labs.

Check out the write-up of Mr. Bigo below:

 

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This is NOT what appeared on the Bell Labs website (which has changed since acquisition by Nokia).

Instead, the write-up started with a simple and again unscientific phrase.

 

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Everything else about the bio is the perfunctory stuff, what you would expect from an accomplished scientist who plays with molecules for fun. But the kick-off sentence — even with syntax that would grade out as a “C” in third-grade English — changes the entire tone of the bio.

Words matter.

And yes, Mr. Bigo is a busy man.


Comments

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