The other day I was at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago with my family. About halfway through our visit, we had stopped to eat a snack downstairs near the dolphins and beluga whales when I saw something that caught my attention. On their garbage cans, the Shedd had two different slots. The slots were labeled “Recycling” and “Landfill.” Do you know what word caught my attention? Landfill.
I‘ve thought a lot about this experience since our Shedd visit. I’m pretty certain labeling it landfill was intentional (after all, The Shedd focuses a lot on sustainability and zero waste initiatives). There is still something about the word landfill that I can’t get out of my head. Meanwhile, “trash” or “garbage” is easily forgettable. I don’t know if everyone feels this way, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one. But I’ve been wondering about why this stuck with me. I think it’s because my visual image of “garbage” or “trash” is just my garbage can at home. It doesn’t really register with my brain as being too meaningful. It’s just one garbage can, after all. But the image I have of a landfill? I bet you have it, too.
Yep, that’s the one. It feels dirty, heavy, and even guilty. But my garbage can at home? It just feels like a garbage can. Obviously, when I think about it, I know that my garbage bags contribute to said landfill. But in the moment, “landfill” catches my attention and discourages me from throwing something out.
But what does any of this have to do with marketing or content coordination?
Choosing Your Words Wisely
This was a great reminder for me that words matter. And even more than that, the exact words you use matter. As a lover of the written word, I read the dictionary for fun, pour over poetry and song lyrics, have a notebook where I compile my favorite quotes, and will re-read the same sentence in a book over and over again if it touches me the right way. But if I’m being honest, writing every day, though in some ways has been a dream, has made me a little bit numb to words at times.
It’s easy to get caught up in completing the task and getting your point across. But are your words really sticking with your ideal audience? I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself that you don’t have time to triple-check your words every time you post. I get it. But I also know it can be the difference between your content staying on their mind for weeks to follow, and just being tossed in the trash (forgotten).
Tips on Finding the Right Words
So here are some ideas I’ve come up with for putting more effort into my own words, and maybe they’ll be helpful to you too:
- Invest in a dictionary and a thesaurus (or just find an online version). – Even if reading them is not your ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon, you’ll be able to reference them when brainstorming different words to use.
- Write down words or phrases that stick with you. – Even if they don’t seem related to your topic, you might find yourself inspired by them one day.
- Ask someone else to review your work and offer suggestions. – I sometimes find that my sentences get a little repetitive or boring when I am writing about the same thing week after week. I love seeing what a coworker with fresh eyes can suggest or tweak that makes all the difference!
- Struggling to find feeling words that feel authentic? Check out The Feelings Wheel for a list of emotions beyond sad, angry, happy, and surprised.
Do you have any tips for using words that matter when you write your content? Do you have any favorite words, phrases, etc.? I’d love to hear them! Send the team an email at email@example.com or send one to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.