“Loquacious Fowl” and Other Writing Fouls…


Copywriting legend John Carlton dropped this truth bomb on his email list yesterday:

Finding the right words matter.

“Smart sounding speech” does NOT equal real communication.

When telling a joke, saying, “A loquacious Antarctic fowl entered a libations establishment…”

… does NOT pack the same punch as “A penguin walks into a bar.”

The one who wins a debate is the one who connects with the audience in the most fundamental, feisty way.

Facts don’t win.

Carefully constructed diatribes don’t win.

Even being right won’t win.


The winner will always be the dude or dudette who cracks the crowd up, and delights their ear with unexpected language.

“A loquacious Antarctic fowl entered a libations establishment.” Ha!

Reminds me of the time a music critic on NPR described a song as “casual profundity.”

The co-host agreed.

My reaction: “What the heck is “casual profundity!?”

I looked it up. According to Webster’s, profundity means “Intellectual depth” or “the quality or state of being profound or deep.”

Ahhh. Profund-ity as in “profound.” I get it now.

But I still don’t get what it means to describe a song as “casual profundity.”

This podcast was on National Public Radio. NPR attracts listeners who are smart and sophisticated, or who like to think they are.

So maybe it makes sense for an NPR critic to describe a song as “casual profundity.” Maybe most NPR listeners know “profundity” without reaching for the dictionary. Maybe NPR listeners hear those big words, and it reminds them that they have big brains. Or maybe many of those big-brained NPR listeners nod along with the review — even if they don’t know what the big words mean.

Back in my big-word days, I would have nodded along like that. I would never admit not knowing “profundity.”

But no longer. I admit it now: “I don’t know “profundity.”

Gimme small words. Gimme simplicity. Gimme humor. Gimme more John Carlton.

If I ran a radio network that catered to people who like to think of themselves as smart, I might view this differently.

But I’m a marketer. And I help people deliver their stories clearly and concisely. So prospects get it. So prospects smile and laugh. So prospects respond. So prospects buy.

Marketers don’t want prospects to think, “What the heck does that mean!?”

That’s bad for sales.

So when you write your business stories, when you write sales copy, look out for those big words. Get rid of ‘em — unless no other word will work.

There’s often a simpler word. A shorter word. A more widely-known word.

In most cases, you can find a simpler, shorter, widely-known word that means the same as the big word. The small word paints the same picture, tells the same story.

And because it’s a small word, not a big word, more people understand the story. Fewer people will say “What the heck does that mean?!”

That’s the point. When you tell a story, you want it to connect.

One last thing…

If you’re reading this before 11:30 a.m. EDT, you still have time to attend the masterclass: How to Create Prospect-Attracting Lead Magnets AND Business-Generating Follow-Ups — Without Working Your Tail Off.

Details and registration here.

Don't go away yet..

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.