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The Bold Beauty of Plain Language

The Bold Beauty of Plain Language

So much of the language we experience today seems overcomplexificated.

Too many obtuse phrases and three-letter acronyms. Not enough real insight.

And sometimes, just too damn much.

In business, some think their opaque jargon makes them sound smarter. In academia and other bureaucracies the “inside language” grows organically and makes some feel more important. Some people confuse quantity with quality in their email messages and blog posts. And in politics and marketing, some use clever, slippery language to obfuscate meaning and win sales, votes or political influence.

While there is no way to prevent anyone from intentionally “spinning” or trying to obfuscate their true intent, the main reason they can get away with it is that so much of the communication we experience in business, government and academia is unintentionally muddy. So much complication, spin and faux-intellect makes it easier for some to intentionally deceive the rest of us.

This makes me yearn for crisp, clear thoughts presented succinctly.

A confession: Because I love words (both written and spoken) I can easily over-talk and/or over-write without any intention of confusing or boring my audience – but occasionally that is the result. So I am always on guard for anything that reduces clarity and/or impact of my writing and speaking. The three things I try to avoid most are inbreeding, self-love and lazy thinking.

Inbreeding

Every organization has its “inside” lingo, its technical code, its jargon. Over time the accumulation of inbred verbiage and TLAs (three letter acronyms) can become almost impenetrable.

Outsiders and even new employees can be confused and put off by the insider language, or feel that it is intended to condescend, to pose, or to exclude. This may not be the intent, yet that can be the actual effect.

Self-Love

We all tend to fall in love with our own thought and ideas. After all, if you have an idea and you DON’T think it’s good, you immediately discard it and move on. So while your mind might generate dozens of so-so thoughts and ideas for every good or great one, you tend to only focus on the ones your mind decides are “keepers,” which then creates the self-perception that all of your ideas are above average.

This can lead us to over-share thoughts and ideas that in reality are not especially insightful or helpful to others. A colleague of mine has a term for lengthy emails that obviously bring more satisfaction to the writer than the reader – he calls these emailsturbation.

Lazy Thinking

If you are not yourself crystal clear regarding the specific message you are trying to convey, you may very easily produce a rambling incoherent communication within which your “golden nugget” of thought gets totally lost.

Do not force the rest of us to figure out what it is you are trying to say. And understand that everything you communicate to us has to compete with every other email, article, book, etc. we are trying to absorb each day.

Quick Tips

  • Know EXACTLY what you are trying to communicate and if you are hoping for ACTION be sure to ASK for it.
  • If an email is so long that readers will have to scroll downward on their screen, this is a RED FLAG.
  • Use shorter and simpler words.
  • Write short, simple sentences.
  • Use 5 or fewer sentences per paragraph.
  • Use informal, conversational writing style.
  • Use a LITTLE humor to keep the reader engaged.

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I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on this, and as always your “Like” of this article is genuinely appreciated.