From time to time, I ask my husband to proofread my work before I submit it to a client. He’ll fix a comma splice here and there or tighten up a sentence or two, but he usually doesn’t offer very specific feedback about my freelance content writing efforts.
So I was surprised when he said told me I needed to revise a relatively mundane article about landing page conversion rates.
“Oh really?” I said, obviously doubting his point would be at all pertinent. “Explain.”
“You can’t use the word ‘cyberspace’ anymore,” he said.
“Why not? It’s a thing, ” I said.
“Sure, it’s a thing, but no one actually says it anymore. Using that word makes it seem like you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade and you don’t know squat about digital marketing,” he said. “No 20-something hipster will take you seriously if you write like that.”
“Oh. Ok. Point taken,” I said and shuffled back to my laptop.
Much to my chagrin, his point was valid. And it’s one that will resonate with me as my content writing career continues.
That’s because, as a professional content writer, the work I do is not reflective of me and my knowledge or abilities. My name rarely appears on the articles, blog entries or press releases I craft. Rather, it’s my clients’ names and therefore their reputations that are on the line if the word I select gives the wrong connotation or nuance.
So by using the word “cyberspace” in an article, I immediately characterized the business I was writing for as antiquated, out-of-touch and just plain old. In that vein, it would be the same if I used “dungarees” in place of “jeans.” Or “station wagon” in favor of just plain “wagon” or “crossover,” as auto manufacturers seem to prefer. And a baby’s “pack-n-play” is never referred to as a “play pen” as it was when I was an infant three decades ago.
It’s not that using these words is technically incorrect—the older words have basically the same meanings as their newer, hipper cousins. But by opting for words that have a more frequently used, modern-day equivalent, you end up showing either your age or inexperience in a particular subject area.
And that’s a problem when you’re writing content for small businesses. Your poor word choice will reflect badly on the company and damage your reputation as a professional content writer.
So it turns out my hubby had a valid point. I’ll certainly heed his advice and carefully consider how the words I select can impact my—and my client’s—credibility. Just don’t tell him I said so.
Chelsea A is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.