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Writing clearly and saying what we mean: a manifesto

in Top copywriting tips

Corporate jargon. Phrases such as ‘going forward’, ‘bandwidth’, ‘best of breed’, ‘reach out’, ‘deep dive’. Long sentences you have to read several times to make sense of them. They infect our conversations, our correspondence and our communications.

But it’s dangerous. Here’s why.

Corporate jargon leads to a lack of trust

When bosses use corporate jargon, research shows employees trust them less.

When corporations use jargon, their customers trust them less. For example, banks are one of the three least trusted business sectors. And the single biggest thing they could do to improve trust is to provide terms and conditions that are easy to understand.

Corporate jargon leads to a lack of credibility

Nearly 90% of B2B decision makers think marketing clichés such as “disruptive” and “best-in-class” harm a company’s credibility.

Corporate jargon excludes people

One in seven adults in England has literacy levels at or below those expected of a nine to 11-year-old. And whatever your literacy level, longer sentences are harder to understand.

  • When the average sentence length in a piece was fewer than eight words long, readers understood 100% of the story.
  • At 14 words, they could comprehend more than 90%.
  • At 43 words, comprehension dropped below 10%.

Corporate jargon annoys people

There are lots of good reasons to avoid corporate jargon. But let’s not forget the obvious. Corporate jargon is just annoying to lots of us.

It’s time to take a stand

I’m leading the charge to eliminate corporate jargon and gibberish sentences from our vocabulary.

Here are the pledges for anyone who wants to sound like a human when they’re at work.

I will say what I mean

I won’t use corporate jargon or business buzzwords if there’s a plain English alternative. For example, I won’t say ‘I will reach out to you by email’. Instead, I will say ‘I will email you.’

I will do this by asking myself questions such as:

  • Would my reader understand what I’m saying?
  • Is this the way I would say this if my reader was sitting in front of me and I was having a conversation with them?
  • Would an 11-year-old understand this? (Remembering always that understanding something is not the same as being interested in something.)
  • Is this the quickest and easiest way to say this?

I will choose shorter words rather than longer ones

I won’t use long or unusual words when there’s a short or common one that’s just as good. For example I won’t say ‘documentation’. I will say ‘documents’.

I won’t use many words when one will do. For example, I won’t say ‘as a consequence of’. I will say ‘because’.

I will use short sentences

I will try to make sure my longest sentences are no longer than 15 to 20 words. If I have to concentrate to understand a sentence I have written, I will cut it down. It is too long or it is poorly constructed.

Will you join me?

If you hate corporate jargon as much as I do, take the pledge. Cut it out from your own vocabulary. Encourage others to do the same. Together, we can build trust, credibility and inclusion in the workplace. And stop annoying ourselves in the process. Take a stand!

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