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Don’t make me think

My career has been spent reading millions of words generated by marketing managers in industry. Naturally, I long ago became a fan of plain language. I’ve seen more waffle than many people could conceive. Anything that gets to the point and doesn’t make me think is always welcome.

But the thing is, like anyone else, I don’t know when I start reading something if it’s going to be easy to read or not. 

Usually when we see people recommending plain language, they talk about how “it saves time for busy professionals”, and drivel like that. But the busy professionals didn’t know if something was going to be easy to read or not either. They didn’t come away thinking: “I’m glad that was easy to read, it saved me time, which is so important in my busy day”. They read it, and they either understood it or they didn’t. 

Write as you’re spoken to

The proof of whether plain language works or not is in whether it inspires more people to take the call to action. And the evidence is that it does. This study for example found that 73% of decision makers scheduled a demo after reading plain language marketing materials versus 44% for ‘non-plain language’ alternatives.

I know it’s hard. Marketing is a world full of posturing, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of using jargon to demonstrate authority. It’s also tempting to waffle when we don’t really understand what we’re writing about, rather than making the effort to understand.

But it’s also easier than ever to record somebody (even ourselves) describing something and transcribe it as a basis for content that is as easy to read as it was to listen to. That’s been my go-to method of ensuring I use plain language for many years now.