Men wait too long before they see a doctor. I believe the saying goes something like that. Today, I may have dispelled that theory. After suffering from a sore throat for three days I dragged myself into the doctor’s office. A quick inspection and a swab of my throat revealed nothing.
“It’s probably just something viral. It may take a few days before it passes.” She said
See, I knew I didn’t need a doctor!
I can laugh about the doctor finding nothing wrong with me. It validates my claim about not needing to see one. That would be a like.
How did I really feel?
I wanted her to find something wrong. I wanted a label on my illness. Something viral feels unknown. Unknown means scary. Just give it a name. Give it any name. I would feel so much better if it had a label.
A label is a powerful persuasion tool. I use them all the time. In a recent article on Medium, I wrote about the PERT method of writing a daily article. Where did the term PERT come from? I made it up.
It’s a series of small steps, when combined, simplify the writing process. That won’t resonate with most people. Giving it a name, however, makes it a thing. It makes it a real thing. Within twenty four hours a few people had referenced the label on Twitter.
Would that process have resonated as much without the label? No way. We can wrap our minds around a four letter label. We can’t wrap our minds around an eighty word process plan.
Writers Fear Labels
Unfortunately, the story does not end here. I often hear copywriters, persuasive writers and plain old writers avoid labels.
“It’s not really a thing. I don’t want to mislead people.”
That’s the common reaction I get when I recommend labeling something. Inventing new labels does not mislead people. It simplifies things for them. Pull out a complex idea. Wrap it up into a short label. You make it easier for your audience to grasp the meaning.
Don’t believe me? Here’s an example you can identify with.
Let’s take a word like confidence? Confidence represents certain feelings we have about our abilities. Nobody goes around saying
“I feel self-assurance and believe with certainty, my ability to carry out this task”
We simply state:
“I’m confident in my ability to carry out this task”
You Don’t Need Permission
Somewhere in history, someone decided it would be easier to use the word confidence instead of the long winded description. Nobody discovered confidence. Someone invented it by attaching a label to feelings and beliefs it represents.
I doubt the inventor of that word asked for permission. He just did it and it made its way into our language.
Take a look at your writing. Seek out complex explanations. Search for complexity. What label can you use to simplify things for your audience? Make it simple for your audience and see what it does to your persuasive power.
The Best Part About Labels
Finally, we get to the best part. Let’s suppose you invent a label. That label sticks. It catches on. Now, you become forever known as the inventor. The title stays with you. Will my PERT label attract the attention of the masses? I doubt it has the mass appeal. We’ll see