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Word Processing


"What are words for? When no one listens anymore." (This flashback to the 80s is brought to you by B Direct.)

Fast forward to 2019. Last month, Webster's announced that it was adding 533 new words to the dictionary. Some are serious, like deep state and the Bechdel Test. Some not so much, like vacay, inspo, and fabulosity. Some are trendy activities, like free solo, escape room, and pickleball. Some are complicated, like rhoticity and aphantasia. And, some are just plain terrifying, like coulrophobia.

In case you're wondering, coulrophobia means "fear of clowns." (OMG.)

Traditionalists may not appreciate the addition of they as a singular pronoun (for non-binary individuals). But, we can probably all agree that there's no room for colorism in today's society.

New words aren't the only thing new either. Webster's made 4,000 other changes, including pronunciations, etymologies, and dates of first known use.

Webster's takes all of the change in stride. "New words are a happy fact of life for a living language," they assert. "And taking careful stock of the words we use is an important party of the work of dictionary editors. Words can come and go in a language, but those that show staying power and increasing use need to be recorded and described. In other words: they need definitions."

Why do words matter to direct marketers?

Unlike a popular published author, direct marketing writers need to be chameleons. If J.K. Rowling always sounds like J.K. Rowling, that's fine. In fact, it's probably what her readers want. But, as direct marketers, we have to master multiple voices, transitioning in and out of them, based on what product or service we are marketing to what target audience.

The words we use to market a software solution to an IT director are going to be very different from the words we use to market a canine DNA test to the adoptive parent of a rescue dog. If you're lucky (and, at B Direct, we've been very lucky) to have a nice diverse assortment of clients, you need to be able to speak multiple languages. Each client will have its own tone of voice, whether that's crisp and professional, friendly and conversational, helpful, exciting, educational, or some combination all its own.

When we start with a new client, one of the things we do is read everything we can get our hands on — from the client, from the competition, from the industry, and from the environment in which the target audience operates. Using the right words (even slang ... no wait, especially slang) is extremely important. It makes our marketing material credible, relevant, and authentic. And, it improves response.

And, just think, if we use those slang words often enough, maybe Webster's will put them in the dictionary.

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