In Plain English, Please

I’m tired. And the sense I’m getting from others is that they’re tired, too. It becomes more exhausting every day to decipher what most of our fellow marketers are trying to actually say or recommend and I think I know why.

We want to make sure other people know we’re smart. So we overpopulate whatever we’re writing – emails, presentations, etc. – with as many big words, buzz words and “ize” words as possible. The problem is that most people don’t have time these days to peel apart unnecessary layers of hype and jargon to get to the meat of what you’re really saying. If a client or colleague has to re-read your recommendation three times to understand the essence of what you’re actually recommending, that’s a problem. It doesn’t show how smart you are. It shows you don’t respect their time.

The truth is that we’re all pretty smart. Well, most of us. We know a smart strategy, idea or insight when we see it, hear it or read it. Wrapping up a bad recommendation in elegant wrapping with a beautiful bow on top doesn’t make it a better recommendation. Likewise, great thinking is great on its own. Don’t muddy a great idea by bogging it down just to show how many words you have in the arsenal.

This is also a big problem when social media types try to explain what they do. Tossing around things like “emerging media,” “social capital,” “open source” and the names of every social media platform on the Interweb as fast as you can just makes most people feel lost. I believe one reason more brands aren’t using social media initiatives is because we don’t talk about them in ways that are inviting. Instead we overwhelm them with a whirlwind of jargon.

To be clear, I’m not saying words aren’t important. I’m saying the opposite. Words ARE important. Be clear. I believe we’ll get more done that way.

Let’s start a movement on this one. Who’s with me? Maybe we can get the LeFevers of Common Craft fame to do a video on Speaking in Plain English.

*Image by Chris.

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9 responses to “In Plain English, Please

  1. Great read, and I am in total agreeance.

    In many ways this post relates to one of my greatest pet peeves- the people who constantly talk just for the sake of talking, but rarely have anything to say that helps push the conversation forward.

  2. I hate when people do that. I once worked with a young woman who could say 1,000 words without saying anything at all. It was like adding air to the conversation instead of real value.


  3. Gordon Peterson

    Amen. Clarity is at a premium these days and has been for a long time. Count me in on any movement to improve the situation.

  4. This where social media and traditional communication are one – same rules. Say what you mean, mean what you say!

  5. I’ve fought this crusade at several of the world’s largest companies, where the problem is at its worst. Thank you, David, for reminding us of the importance of clarity and brevity.

  6. I agree with Joel, the problem does seem to be worse at bigger companies. I especially hate acronyms – often, people throw them around as if you should know what they stand for. No more corporate acronyms!

  7. Wholeheartedly agree. Jargon, tautology and pleonasm are no replacement for simple, clear communication.

    It’s a skill that many surprisingly lack.

  8. Here is the place to go (and join up) to support the use of plain language:
    Plain Language Association INternational

  9. I guess I’ll 9th all of you! I totally agree on this. Here’s for keeping it simple.

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