Synergising simplicity successfully, and all that jazz

Lauren McMenemy

CorporateLand has a particular way of speaking, doesn’t it? There’s a certain je ne sais quois, a certain aura of ego. It’s a clique that likes to isolate through acronyms and jargon.

Think back to when you started at Big Company plc. How many acronyms did you have to learn? Did the job come with a jargonbuster? Did you ever get the damn TPS reports sorted out?

The thing is, your customers don’t have the time nor energy to learn your jargon. They’re busy people. They have a million messages competing for their attention every day. You need to make it easy for your customers to understand what you offer – don’t make them work for it. You’re telling them that “Certainly, notwithstanding the immediate efforts of the TFC taskforce, our service is still experiencing intermittent connectivity issues”. Your competitor is telling them: “Sorry, we’re still have some network issues.” Who will they be drawn to?

Everyone can write, but not everyone can write well.

If you’re not a Writer with a capital W, it’s easy to overcomplicate things. You’ve seen so much writing that piles on the adjectives and the big words that you just figure that’s how it needs to be. You need to talk big to sound intelligent and convince readers that you’re the expert. Everyone around you does it that way, so you do it that way to.

Well, guess what? You’ll stand out more and be more successful if you simplify the language.

We’re not telling you to dumb it down – not at all. There’s a difference between being simple and being quote-unquote “dumb”.

In a fabulous post for Relevance, Erik Decker sets it straight: “Academics like to explain small ideas to small audiences with big words,” he writes. “As marketers, we want to reach big audiences with big ideas, so we need small words. That means cut the jargon, cut the adjectives and adverbs, and stop trying to impress people with the biggest words you can find.”

Your audience will tune out if they can’t understand you.

We recently wrote about appealing to the lowest common denominator, so we won’t dwell on this too long. It does, however, bear repeating – it’s that important. Consumers today are hit with more than 5,000 brand messages per day. Why is yours any different?

Engage your audience with compelling stories; don’t turn them off by trying to show off your massive vocabulary. Show them you understand their position, their point of view. You get it. And you’ll find them understanding you, as well. You’ll build that loyal audience, that community you so dearly crave. And that, my friends, is the stuff of sales dreams…

Lauren McMenemy

Writer, editor, proofreader, writing coach and mentor, editorial strategy and consultancy.