Keep it simple

by Ken McEwen, Ken McEwen Public Relations

Unless we make a deliberate effort to escape, we are now almost constantly bombarded with information every minute of our waking hours.

Time was when the fastest way to get a message to someone was by the “penny post” and the most up-to-date news we could receive was delivered in the morning newspaper.

Now, even when we are on the move, we can continue to broadcast and receive global information on our mobiles.

child reading

The number of information channels targeting us continues to grow. Six years ago, few of us had heard of Twitter. But, even if we don’t use them, we now hear of Twitter and other social media constantly.

In an environment like this – cluttered with more messages and information than one brain can possibly assimilate – effective communication becomes ever more critical to business success.

Who would want to make communication more difficult? But, strangely, that’s exactly what so many people and organisations do.

I met with a potential client recently. They told me that they undertook “ecological assessments” and implemented “solutions-focussed individualised programmes” aimed at “positive outcomes”.

Now, I have no doubt that these buzzwords would resonate with many of the professionals that they work with. But, outside that circle of specialists, you can just envisage the eyes glazing over…

The crazy thing about this desire to create buzzwords and jargon to make our language impenetrable is that it is so unnecessary. The simplest way to speak and write is usually the best and the most effective.

When I worked in newspapers, people told me that The Sun had some of the crispest, most easily understood language of any newspaper. Inevitably some sneered when we were told the newspaper used English that was aimed at a reading age of seven.

Some will argue that you need jargon and buzz-words to explain technical points to an audience accustomed to the language. I would agree, up to a point.

Having set up my previous and current PR businesses in Aberdeen, I have worked on some pretty technical oil industry projects over the past 30 years.

Each time I have sat down to write an oil industry press release, or article, for example, I have set out with the expectation of producing two versions. The first version, without jargon, would be aimed at business desks and news media. The second version would have the jargon added in for oil industry publications.

Almost every time, when I completed the first version, I realised it was good for both audiences! No matter how I looked at the stories, I could see no reason to add in jargon.

Embellishing your prose by adding jargon and buzz words may make you feel that your communication is more substantial.

The reality is that – in a world where everyone is clamouring for our attention – you are much more likely to get your point across if you keep your message simple and straightforward.
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