Jargon doesn’t make you sound smart

Wordy messages wont convince your audience. Clear speaking and writing will.

Wordy messages won't convince your audience. Clear speaking and writing will.

I’ve ranted on this blog before about the perils of bad writing. Now I have research to back it up.

Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive gives an example of jargon overload:

We’re leveraging our assets and establishing strategiec alliances to create a robust knowlege center-one with a customer-ruled business structure using market-leading technologies to maximize our human systems.

According to the book, that means “we’re consultants.”

What happens when you use language like this? Yes summarizes research by Daniel Oppenheimer which shows that “the message is deemed less convincing and the author is perceived as less intelligent.”

The lesson is clear: you will be more convincing if you communicate clearly. Use simple sentences and words your audience can understand.

Sacred Words: Primal Branding Asset 6

Do you know what it means to carmelize, deglaze, and saute?

Do you know what it means to keep a stack, stand aside, or block?

Do you know what it means to hit the wall or do a fartlek?

Which is larger at Starbucks, a tall or grande? (I don’t know this one.)

In Primal Branding, Patrick Hanlon talks identifies sacred words as one of the key assets that a company, product, organization, or movement needs to have adherents that believe in it.

As with many of his concepts, Hanlon doesn’t really explain it. After all, it’s primal, not rational. But observation does bear it out. Anything that people dedicate a lot of time or attention to develops its own language.

And once it has that language, those sacred words help to distinguish the insiders from the outsiders.

Hanlon hasn’t convinced me that you need to go out and try to create sacred words. In fact, he describes how they develop naturally in community. Nobody planned for people who attend the TED conference to start calling themselves TEDsters.

If you’re an organizer, though, who is committed to building an accessible community, you need to find ways to welcome people in so that they learn the sacred words.

At ICPJ, for example, we need to make sure people know what we’re talking about when we say REJ, LATF, or DWG.

Sacred words maintain an in-group, and that’s okay, so long as there’s no lock on the door that makes it impossible for new folks to get in.

(For more of my thoughts on primal branding, visit the table of contexts post, photo by _fabrizio_)