Write like you talk: A lesson from NASA


January 28, 1986, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It was a cold morning when 7 astronauts climbed on board the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger. They were ready for a six day trip into orbit around Earth.

But 73 seconds after liftoff, the Space Shuttle Challenger suddenly explodes.

It was a tragedy. 7 astronauts lost their lives in front of their families, friends, and millions of TV viewers.  

Even today, when you ask most people 'what caused this disaster?', the typical reply is, 'It was the O-rings that failed.'

(translation for non-nerds: the O-ring is a piece of the rocket boosters).

But this is partially true.

NASA ended discovering that the problem was actually caused by communication issues.

NASA's engineering team knew that the O-rings would fail if they launched on a day that was too cold.

So the engineering team wrote memos and notes to warn the executive launch team. But these were so poorly written that the Executive launch team ignored them.

NASA's engineering team ignored the same persuasion trick most marketers neglect: write like you talk.

Because your job isn't to impress people with how smart you are. It's to persuade your audience into taking action.

P.S. This piece was originally posted in my Nishi weekly newsletter where I share colorful thoughts on copywriting + loads of helpful resources and interesting stories. Subscribe to my newsletter here.

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