This post is part of the Ten Golden Rules of Global Content Strategy series.

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 1,000 times…!”

This is a phrase that my mother used to say to me all the time. For example, she’d say it when she told me to clean my room (for about the 1,000th time) and I still hadn’t.

“If I’ve told you once…” is our final installment of the Ten Golden Rules of Content Strategy. There are two ways to look at this rule:

  • If you’ve already told me something once, then you don’t need to repeat it. So, don’t keep going over (and over) the same ground in your content. It ends up being very costly and often quite annoying. Say it once. Say it with as few words as possible. Say it as simply as you can. Then, don’t say it again.
  • If you are going to say it again, by all means, say it the same way.

“But why?” you ask, “That’s just boring. That doesn’t allow me to show off my awesome vocabulary and extra-special writing skills.” I understand. If you really want to show off your vocabulary and your writing prowess, you can always write the next great novel. However, in customer content, whether technical, marketing, sales, even human resources, saying the same thing, the same way, every time you say it is the way to go.

Here’s why:

  • It’s expensive. You pay for translation by the word x by the language. Once you have paid to have a phrase translated into a particular language, you never have to pay for that phrase again – unless you change the words. So, repeating your words can equal a big savings on translation costs.
  • It’s confusing. It is always best to set up an expectation for your readers. If I’m accustomed to having you say something in a particular way, and then you change the way you say it, I can get confused. If you always use the same words, it is easier for me. Always make things easy for your customers. They’ll appreciate it.
  • It’s time-consuming.  Let’s face it, content often changes. Things get updated. Brands change. Features change. Campaigns changes. If you say something ten different ways, you risk the possibility of having to change it ten different times, in ten different places. In the best of all worlds, you say something once and, using structured authoring, you reuse it many times. At minimum, though, if you’ve said the same thing in ten places, you stand a better chance of catching all the places where that content needs to be changed.
  • It’s annoying. As your customer, I’m not really here to be entertained. Even if you are Sony, Samsung, or Walt Disney. In all likelihood, I’m here to find important information, do something with the information, and be on my way. If I have to parse through your words to understand your meaning – and do it multiple times since you said the same thing multiple ways – I’m going to be annoyed. And I might not buy from you.

Bottom line: Say something once. Use as few words as possible. Keep the words as simple as possible. And you’ll be golden. Because if I’ve told you once…

Val Swisher
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