At Hybrid, we (usually*) strive to write copy that is as close as possible to human speech. We want our readers to think of the organisations we’re writing for as living and breathing, with beliefs and aims, just like them.
Our audiences may be made up of world class engineers, CEOs of a global corporations, award winning architects, individuals who want to insure their homes… They’re all human.
When you work in one industry, day in day out, it can be easy to get carried along in a wave of buzzwords and jargon. Here’s a little advice on why and how to avoid drowning.
Buzzword: An important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen
Laymen? Is that how you see your audience? As less knowledgable than yourselves? Ignorant perhaps? If you use buzzwords, you risk alienating the people you are trying to reach. Give your audience the respect they deserve. Communicate with them as equals. Don’t try to out-clever them.
But I want to sound like I’m on the cutting edge of my industry…
Buzzwords and phrases become outdated quickly. If you use them, you risk missing the moment and making yourself sound the exact opposite.
Jargon: Obscure and often pretentious language marked by circumlocutions and long words
That says it all.
But jargon makes me sound professional…
Wrong. Using jargon of any kind is like building a brick wall between you and your readership. It is as though you don’t want them to understand what you’re trying to say. Again, don’t try to out-clever your audience. No one likes a know-it-all.
But my competitors use jargon…
Ask yourself, why would your customers choose you over your competitors? Is it because you use big words your customers quite possibly don’t understand? Or is it because your service or product will make their life better/easier/simpler? If your competitors use jargon, use this opportunity to set yourself apart.
Writing clear concise copy, on brand, in the right tone is not easy. It can take years of experience to get it right. One trick is to keep your vocabulary simple and your sentences concise.
Here are some of the words on my ‘forbidden list’**:
- Bespoke: Everything we do is bespoke. Otherwise all the work we produce would look and feel the same. Which it doesn’t.
- Integrated: We don’t work in isolation. The various components of each and every project we do are made to work together. Everything we do is integrated.
- Solutions: We offer solutions. Okay… What do you do exactly?
- Innovative: If you have to tell people you’re innovative then you’re probably not. If you can show innovation on the other hand…
- Disruptive: It just makes me cringe. For me, ‘disruptive marketing’ is just good marketing, the same as it’s always been.
- Responsive: If it’s not responsive it’s from the 90s.
- Complex: If it really is complex give me details. Otherwise, I don’t believe you.
- Pop: The design needs to pop. Really? Nah, lets just let it blend in to all the other meh out there.
- Top quality, amazing, the best: Superlatives are a sure fire way of denting your credibility. Show don’t tell.
- Unnecessarily long words such as utilise, alleviate: Pompous and, in a world where people don’t have the time or the attention span to spend a lot of time reading text on a web page, simple words read faster.
- Adverbs like very, actually, really: Again, they’ll slow your reader down when all they want to do is get to the point as fast as they can.
Edit, edit, edit. Simplify, simplify. Read it out loud. And then do it again.
Or hire a copywriter ;)
*There may exceptional circumstances when we play around with an inhumane style.
**This is just a snippet of an ever-evolving beast.