How more human language can change minds

Two well chosen words from a clever copywriter made me happy to wait for this receipt
Two well-chosen words from a clever copywriter made me happy to wait for this receipt

 Please wait a moment.

 Sainsbury’s (yes, the supermarket) said this to me and it had a big effect.

Years ago, I had a bit of a to do with Sainsbury’s. It was over a rude delivery driver who, to be fair, was just trying to do his job. It was the time they allowed him to do it that was the problem. Anyway, their attempts to blame everyone but their own system and buy me off with £25 in vouchers annoyed me and I vowed to steer clear of them.

Until now.

Their petrol is the cheapest round here at the moment – by 10p a litre compared to some places – and that broke my resolve.

And because of their little message, I didn’t mind.

The screen on the petrol pump said:

Printing receipt
Please wait a moment

It was the a moment that made the difference. It’s human language so sounds like one person talking to another in normal conversation. It connected with me, made me smile and so I was happy to wait.

They’d have left me feeling at best nothing and at worst impatient if it had said:

Printing receipt
Please wait

However, it would have been better if they’d said:

Printing your receipt
Please wait a moment

This is because of the word your. It reminds me that it is my receipt, I asked for it and it will be with me in just a moment.

And they could have made it better again if they’d said:

Please wait a moment while we print your receipt


We’re printing your receipt
Please wait a moment

These two examples use we or we’re so tell me Sainsbury’s haven’t left the printing of my receipt to some unknown, nameless entity but are on to it themselves. It uses the active voice so tells me who is doing what. And because the active voice is personal it helps connect the writer to the reader. Which is exactly what we want to do.

It was the a moment that really swung it for me though. Whenever you read something that makes you feel a company values you as a customer and is making the effort to connect with you, using human language, it does make a difference. You connect with them more. You remember them and feel positive about them.

The addition of two words – nine characters with spaces – may seem like a change so small it’s meaningless.

When in fact, it’s enough to make all the difference.


Hello. I’m Sarah Russell, a freelance creative copywriter.

I’m quite small myself, although my words can make a big difference.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you found something in it to help or inspire you, or to make you smile.


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Call me on: 01873 776 153

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