Say what? How to purge jargon for good

We’ve been overloaded with empty messaging for years, and the backlash has begun. Speak plainly to show you value your audience—and their time.

We’ve been overloaded with empty messaging for years, and the backlash has begun. Speak plainly to show you value your audience—and their time.

All business is human

On the other side of every communication is a human being. A person with a life, family, friends, fears and aspirations.

So why do brands and organizations still flood their channels with corporate speak, complex messaging, acronyms, legalese, jargon and platitudes? Why do the terms B2B and B2C still exist? Do I stop being a consumer of clear information because I work at a technology company? It’s got to stop. We are losing our audiences.

Plain is powerful

Governments and businesses put a lot of effort into understanding their audiences. That research tells communicators how they need to speak to make meaningful connections with the people they want to influence. Many organizations are adopting plain language rules. The Government of Canada, for example, calls for plain language to be used in all internal and external communications. It’s policy.

Unfortunately, plain language lost out in the name department. Plain is intended to mean clear, simple and authentic—not boring and condescending.

Plain language is not easy to achieve. Writing is hard enough. Most organizations struggle to meet baseline measures of clarity and simplicity. And we’re not talking only about marketing and communications teams. Everyone in an organization writes, and everyone should be expected to do it clearly and respectfully.

How deep does it go?

If your organization swears by plain language but it isn’t changing your voice, it’s tokenism. And people hate that. They hate it with the same loathing reserved for, “We’re all in this together.” You want your audience to trust you? Talk to them in a way that shows you give a damn.

Let’s say you’ve put a plain language policy into place and done the training. How can you be sure it’s working? We recommend plain language audits as a way to assess communications and ensure you’re living up to your policy commitment.

One of the evaluation tools we use is a proprietary plain language filter. The aim? Weed out content that is redundant, obvious, and immaterial.

Three things to filter out
graphic expressing a filter which becomes more narrow and clear as it is applied

Prove it

Imagine you’re a business insurance provider, and the following is your copy. It’s not so bad, is it? It’s logical. Reads well. Doesn’t make any outrageous claims. But do you believe anyone but your agency would read it—or believe it?

Let’s apply the plain language filters and make some judgment calls. Purple indicates Redundant content. Green is Obvious. Magenta is Immaterial.

We know there’s nothing small about any business.

Businesspeople are a special breed. They have vision, the passion to embrace entrepreneurship or grow family enterprises, the tireless dedication to make a stand in their market. If you’re in business, we want to be your insurance partner.

Whether your business is big or small, well established or still only an idea, our tailored insurance solutions give you the flexibility and control to protect your business your way. Everything from professional and product liability coverage to business interruption and the latest cyber risk products. Tools to help you stay in business and focussed on landing your next great customer. Because business growth starts with business protection.

We’re Cyan Insurance. Experience, commitment and financial strength that have been trusted by Canadian business for more than a century.

Ready to serve you down the street and across the country.

Added benefit

Notice how the plain language filters also reveal verbosity and overstatement, which helps weed out other longwinded and bombastic content.

Your business is big to us.

Mom-and-pop shop or multinational, your business has distinct insurance needs. Let’s talk about meeting them. Because growing your business starts with protecting it.

Cyan. Down the street and across the country.

Honour your audience

Keep content short to demand less of people’s time. Yes, you may say, but I was told I had room for up to 150 words. Think this way: when you have many key messages, you actually have none. Why not say one or two things clearly and authentically? And be sure to show a little humility. It’s the special sauce these days.

Could we go further with this process? Absolutely. And many of us would re-write differently. Yet we would all end up with something far less likely to trigger the bullshit alarm.

Get filtering. Interested in how to apply the plain language filter to your content? Get in touch.