I received an email today from an organisation I’m involved in. It was about an important new project and the aim of the email was to introduce the organisation’s clients to the project .
Here’s the first paragraph (with some biographical details changed to protect the guilty):
As our strategies begin to take shape, we would like to share some insights into the creation of Project X. As a stakeholder initiative, an open invitation was extended to all interested clients to come together with the aim of engaging each other in experiences around diversity. Through a shared interest of supporting the organisation promoting an emotionally safe and happy environment for our employees, and the greater community, Project X was born.
Not exactly compelling, don’t you agree? How’s the glaze on your eyes?
The trouble is, this paragraph is full of words, words, words – but none of them really mean anything. I scanned a paragraph or two, and then moved to the next email – as did a lot of other people, I’m sure.
Why? Because it really doesn’t say much at all. With a bit of authenticity and a good dose of plain language, they might have produced something that reads like this:
As a South African organisation that wishes to create an emotionally safe and happy environment for our employees, we have decided that we can no longer shy away from challenging topics like race and gender diversity. With this in mind, we have created Project X – and we would appreciate your involvement.
At least, I think that’s what they’re trying to say. It’s hard to tell, and I had to wade through six more paragraphs of this gumph to figure it out, but I think I’m close. This organisation – when it gets very little response to its communication – will beat its breast because it will assume people aren’t interested in the project. A more likely scenario, however, will be that people simply couldn’t be bothered to spend precious time figuring out what they were trying to say.
And that’s the beauty of plain language. It creates much clearer communication that’s more likely to be consumed, and it gives your communication greater authenticity and appeal. Why wouldn’t you choose the plain language route?
It doesn’t mean you have to dumb down your language, as so many people assume. In contrast, plain language, well executed, is far more elegant than text that is littered with meaningless buzzwords. Why? Because it actually communicates its message clearly.
It saves time, it saves money, and it saves on wrinkle cream – because you aren’t furrowing your brow trying to decipher every piece of communication you receive.