I love this Dilbert comic strip. It illustrates a challenge that is common to business communicators. Sometimes we fall into a trap of using less-than-precise words that don't carry much meaning.
With competition for attention (especially online) higher than ever before, it’s important to use language that cuts through the clutter. It’s important to get to the point quickly so our messaging is quickly understood. If a reader has to spend time figuring out what you mean, they will probably tune out.
An article I recently read in PR Daily talks about adding clarity to writing by replacing jargon with shorter, more straightforward words. The author takes jargon-filled lines from actual press releases and replaces them with shorter and clearer sentences.
It’s a good exercise for all of us to read our writing and ask ourselves, “Is there an easier way to say this?” If the answer is yes, do it!
Here are a couple other tips:
Avoid using industry-specific terms. Just because words or concepts are used frequently by everyone in your office doesn’t mean the general public understands them. Remember that there is power in simple language. Sometimes I ask clients to explain something to me as if I’m their grandma. Following this “grandma rule” helps to simplify difficult concepts.
Avoid using buzzwords. The purpose of press releases and other content is to deliver information that leads to action. If our message is convoluted or filled with over-hyped verbiage that folks struggle to understand, they aren’t likely to act. Former reporter Becky Gaylord offers a list of replacements for buzzwords here that is very useful.
There is power in direct communication, and all marketing professionals can find room for improvement. Let's get to it!