2014: a plea, not a prediction

It’s that time when the web is awash with likely trends and themes for the year ahead.

I’m not one for too much crystal-ball gazing – and my track record for backing a winner at Aintree or Ascot, or being certain that Liverpool will finally win the league title again, suggests I’m not worth listening to anyway.

So I’m starting the year not with a prediction, but a plea. Can 2014 be when internal communications kicks business jargon into the long grass for good?

Melcrum’s SCM Awards evening last October was hugely enjoyable, as it always is, with people and teams in our field rightly recognised for their work. Sue Perkins, lately of The Great British Bake-Off fame, was a wonderfully funny host. But I have to admit wincing after one too many quizzical “I have no idea what that means” looks as she spoke about some of the entries.

Now admittedly, a lot of it was for comic effect – or at least you’d hope so. Because I think one of the most important things we do as internal communicators is to get under the skin of complex subjects and talk to people about them in language they’ll understand. For many in business, jargon is a comfort blanket and I think it’s down to us to show some tough love and know when it’s right to take it away.

That doesn’t just need skill – it requires courage. A survey of 1,000 executives published last year said barely any of them knew what the jargon they used meant, but most did so to make them “look more professional or intelligent”, or to “cement my position of authority”.

I think it’s down to us to help the people we support see that the reverse is true – the simpler you can make it, the better. That doesn’t mean it’ll sound unprofessional or stupid, or they’ll lack credibility. It’s just, well… normal. And the people on the receiving end will appreciate it.

So my challenge this year is to apply the Sue Perkins test frequently to what gets produced. Strive for the comms equivalent of a frothy peak – not a soggy bottom.

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5 thoughts on “2014: a plea, not a prediction

  1. Krishan Lathigra

    Agree Neil, but it can be difficult to completely abandon the jargon. To successfully fit in to any organisation I guess an employee has to (whether they like it or not) adopt the lingo (oral and written) of the organisation. In some ways a common language translates in to common/shared understanding?

    One of the best pieces of advice about how to write is from George Orwell’s essay on “Politics and the English Language” – he had 6 rules:

    [1] Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    [2] Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    [3] If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    [4] Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    [5] Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    [6] Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

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  2. Jon Weedon (@J0N1)

    If this were a petition, I’d sign up. I do think there is a place for business jargon in the Internal Comms armoury, in particular when discussing stuff that is pertinent to the sector/industry in which your company operates. Being in the online poker industry if I don’t use acronyms like WCOOP, SCOOP and FPP I’d lack the internal credibility – it matters not that outsiders won’t have a clue. The kind of jargon I’m at most pains to eliminate from my repertoire includes words like “employee engagement”, “key stakeholder” and “mission critical” as they are guaranteed to get eyes rolling and tutters tutting. BTW, great to see you blogging at last!

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  3. Pingback: The Ultimate Guide To Better Internal ITSM Comms

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  5. Pingback: Corporate jargon – brave enough to ban it? | Neil Jenkins

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