It knows no bounds. It’s not specific to a certain profession, field, or even a specific topic.
It’s jargon – and it’s bogging down messages everywhere.
You only have 10 seconds to make that connection with your audience. If you fill your web or social media content with buzzwords, clichés, slang or obscure words or terms, you can quickly destroy that chance to make a connection.
It’s a common misconception, especially in the service-based industry, that if we use a certain style or verbose language, we’ll impress our customers. Let’s face it, it can be easy to mistake big words, business-speak, and overly wordy text for “good” writing.
Instead of trying to impress your audience, focus on speaking their language. Filter your concepts in such a way as to convey your point in a way that is relatable to them.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a good checklist of things to leave out of your content:
We’ve all heard “thinking outside the box,” “value added,” “synergize” and the like. Don’t do it on your digital content.
Why? These business-speak buzzwords, and similar phrases, have become clichés and have lost any real significant meaning. Don’t waste your space – or your readers’ time – on these.
Instead: Use strong action words and descriptions. If you want to tell your customers about the value your company offers them, describe that or give examples instead of saying you have “value-added services.”
It is tempting to be overly descriptive in writing or use big, intelligent-sounding words. It’s better not to weigh down your copy with long sentences, lots of adjectives, or words that aren’t common.
Why? We may think this makes us sound knowledgeable, but instead it makes readers work too hard to decipher your message. They’ll lose interest and look for information elsewhere.
Instead: Keep it simple. You should not dumb-down your writing, but get to the point and make it easy for your readers. If you want to describe your product or services, think of how you would verbally do so. Then, write it that way.
We want to connect with our readers, so we strive for conversational writing. However, this does not mean we should use slang or texting and Internet acronyms. Even if you are targeting a younger audience, don’t try to connect with them by using “LOLs” or “OMGs.”
Why? This kind of writing can come off as less than authentic. It can also come across as less than professional. Audiences can spot a phony and will ditch your brand if they feel you are trying to “sell” them your message. Also, it is rare that your audience will be limited to just one, narrow demographic. For example, if you are targeting teens with your product, you’re probably also targeting their parents.
Instead: Write in a conversational – yet professional – tone. The degree of conversation talk can vary depending on your audience. For example, your high school student demographic is going to prefer a different messaging structure than your engineers or medical professionals.
It’s important to note that jargon is different than industry terminology. In many cases, it will be appropriate to use a technical term.
For example, if you are targeting a specific field or specialized expertise, tech speak may be warranted. Just make sure your readers will understand the term. If there is a chance someone browsing your website would be confused, write it differently or explain what you mean.
Often, jargon comes from a lack of understanding from the writer. If you’re tempted to pepper your copy with meaningless buzzwords, stop and ask yourself:
Then, write an explanation of those key elements.
The best way to connect with readers is to make things straightforward and understandable. Avoiding jargon prevents a misunderstanding or misinformation. Above all, it’s just not necessary.
When writing digital content, simple is the way to go. Why? Because your goal is to help your audience understand a concept. Keep your focus on the reader. You may even want to have someone else read your content to make sure that your writing is clear and concise.
Do you need help with your content? Do you struggle with conveying your message in a way that builds relationships with your audience? Contact Heeren Content & Strategy for a free consultation.
Brye Butler Steeves is writer and editor with 12 years of experience as a reporter, a writer, and an editor for newspapers, magazines, trade and academic journals, children’s publications, and online. She is the author of a recently published children’s book, “Daddy Flies,” as well as recently published academic research, “Energy Security: China and the United States’ Renewable Energy Divergence.” Steeves has been a military spouse since 2003 and can attest to the breadth, perspective and experience the military lifestyle has contributed to shaping and developing her as a professional journalist – and as a person who wants to make a difference.
Brye serves as a content consultant for Heeren Content & Strategy clients looking to elevate their messaging and outreach.