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HomeGuidelines > 1. Trim that Text!  > 1e. Delete marketing fluff.                                                         





Audience Fit


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1e. Delete marketing fluff.

  • Move the mission statement to an out-of-the-way spot, such as deep in the About Us area.
  • Keep slogans out of running text. (They are OK in the header, or sidebars).
  • Beware of enthusiastic adjectives and adverbs. These are the lint of marketing.
  • Strip out those concentrated noun strings that marketing uses to summarize its pitch ("world-class enterprise solutions"). If you must make these claims, devote a sentence to each, preferably in a bulleted list. (You may need to increase the total number of sentences).
  • Preserve the gist of features and benefits by focusing on nouns and verbs.
  • Link to statistics, datasheets, detailed descriptions or numbers. Back up your claims.
  • Increase the elements that your customers regard as trustworthy, such as quotes from experts whose name and photo you provide.
  • Write in a neutral, objective tone. Or if you dare, commit to a very personal approach, revealing real details about your own life.


Usability was improved by a good deal in the objective language version (27% better). Our conjecture to explain this finding is that the promotional language imposes a cognitive burden on users who have to spend resources on filtering out the hyberbole to get at the facts. —Nielsen, 1997b.

Be direct. Studies have shown that simple, direct language works better on screen than flowery or "marketing oriented" prose. —Bricklin (1998).

The Web is a rather "cool" medium that encourages the use of facts with links to back-up datasheets and detailed numbers. —Nielsen (1999f, p. 101).

Users rarely look at logos, mission statements, slogans, or any other elements they consider fluff (in particular, they ignore advertising and anything that looks like an ad). —Nielsen (2000a).

Trust is less of an issue for newspapers, which usually have high integrity. Other sites need to fight for credibility and must reduce marketese, slogans, and other elements that generate distrust. —Nielsen (2000b).

Choose a tone that fits the message and the audience. Effective text features:

  • Objective tone instead of promotional tone (for informational Web sites)
  • Personal tone using the pronoun you (when appropriate)
  • Plain instead of inflated, pseudointellectual language. …

[But] scannability and conciseness positively affected users more than objective versus promotional language alone. —Spyridakis(2000)

See: Bricklin (1998), Morkes & Nielsen (1997), Nielsen (1997b, 1999f, 2000a, 2000b), Spyridakis (2000).

Other ways to trim that text

1a. Cut any paper-based text by 50%.

1b. Use short words.

1c. Make some sentences short.

1d. Make most paragraphs short.

1f. Move vital but tangential or supplemental material.

1g. Convert repeating categories of information into tables.

1h. Beware of cutting so far that you make the text ambiguous.

Resources on brevity

Taking a Position on Brevity

Heuristic Online Text (HOT) Evaluation for Brevity






Original marketing paragraph

There’s no magic formula for e-business success. It requires broad vision, tight execution — and a fully integrated, instantly scalable, totally flexible technology infrastructure base, enterprise-wide. That’s why more and more world-class companies are relying on the mySIMP e-business platform. Our industry-leading solution package enables dynamic organizations like yours to reduce the time it takes to bring your products to market. We help you build long-lasting relationships with your most loyal customers. Together, we can achieve long-term, profitable growth.

79 words

Revised marketing paragraph

To succeed in e-business, you need to bring together data from all over your company, building on technology that can handle quick changes, cut time to market, and let you get closer to your most loyal customers. How? Build on the mySIMP e-business platform.

44 words

Audience Fit












If visitors want... How well does this guideline apply?
To have fun Only a marketing manager thinks that raving about your product will actually amuse people.
To learn Any fluff interferes with learning.  Cut it out.  If you must save the promotional lingo, move it to a different location.
To act Marketing themes distract from instructions. By the way: Never give three ways to do something, just to advertise all these neat options.  One way is enough.
To be aware If you can't tell the truth about your topic, you're not making anyone more aware.  You may fool some folks, or annoy them, but most people will react with anger when they encounter a pitch along the  path to enlightenment.
To get close to people Acceptable.  You can be carried away with enthusiasm for your product or service.  But if we suspect that you are insincere, or just voicing the party line, we delete your message. And don't just enter our discussion list to advertise, please.

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