Business speak = bad business: why writing like a human is better for everyone.

Corporate jargon isn't the only enemy – everyday business lingo can be just as bad.

Corporate jargon isn't the only enemy – everyday business lingo can be just as bad.

I never thought I’d be a translator – my French is laughably bad. But as a copywriter I often find myself translating phrases like “we endeavour to deliver bespoke solutions to our customers’ needs” into something a little more, well, human.

I’m not here to make fun of in-office jargon. If you’re speaking to colleagues, feel free to “leverage” anything you like from the management phrasebook. But, if you want humans to care about your organisation, then wouldn’t it make sense to communicate like one?

Here are five reasons why writing like a human makes better business sense (featuring some selected months from the Lark HQ "Corporate Creatures" calendar):

1. It will be easier to understand

We’ve already blogged about the pitfalls of using “clever” words to try to sound more intelligent or formal:

“The best way to relate to your readers – whether they’re boffins or customers (or both) – is to keep it simple.”
— Throw away the thesaurus… by Paul Allen

The same applies to office speak. Why say “we’re ensuring the provision of” when “we’re providing” will do?

The more straightforward your writing, the easier it is to read, the less time it takes to absorb and the more likely it is that the reader will respond – click that button, buy that thing, or sign up to that mailing list.

2. It will manage misconceptions

This is a common problem for many of our clients. Their business model is complicated – nobody understands what they do and they spend a lot of their time explaining it when they could be doing something much more productive.

Imagine you’re on a company’s website. You go to the About page and find: “We develop solutions for our customers’ requirements and develop strategies to help them achieve their goals.” This could apply to almost any business, in any industry.

It’s tempting to wrap up everything you do into a neat little package called “solutions” or “services” but that kind of ambiguity just confuses readers. Wouldn’t it be better if people could understand your organisation so you don’t have to keep explaining yourselves?          

3. It will have more impact

So many corporate words are overused to the point where they’ve lost their impact or even their true meaning – and that's a big, yawn-inducing turn off for readers. They want to read copy that’s fresh and surprising. You’ll lose their attention if your writing reads like an insurance policy.

Here are some key offenders to avoid:

  • Leverage
  • Procure
  • Provision
  • Deliver
  • Utilise
  • Solutions
  • Services
  • Strategies
  • Align
  • Strive
  • Innovative
  • Engagement

You can find more 'Words to avoid' on the GOV.UK style guide.

4. It will help build trust

We lose trust from people if we write government ‘buzzwords’ and jargon. Often, these words are too general and vague and can lead to misinterpretation or empty, meaningless text. We can do without these words.
— Writing for GOV.UK: How to write well for your audience, including specialists.

If your point is lost in a string of ambiguous words and jargon, then it follows that the reader might be suspicious that your meaning is actually hidden for a reason. What do you have to hide? Cut the crap, be straightforward – people will appreciate your honesty. 

5. It will make you more approachable

Your industry's lingo might make perfect sense to you and your colleagues, but as soon as you want to communicate with a wider audience you’ll run into trouble.

“People in authority have always used language in an attempt to assert their supposed superiority… Ordinary people have little time for jargon in their everyday lives, unless it is relevant to their job or leisure interests.”
— ‘For Who The Bell Tolls: The essential and entertaining guide to grammar’ by David Marsh

You might not do it intentionally, but by using words that others struggle to understand you’re sending them the message that you think they should understand them – and if they don’t, then what you’re selling is not for them.

Am I talking about dumbing down your language? No! You can still sound intelligent using plain English – and your customers will love you for it.