Start Making Sense
How to get the gobbledygook out of your copy
“A lot of helpful tips including resources to use when explaining technical terms to a nontechnical audience. I gained knowledge that I will carry with me throughout my career.”
— Leslie Beck, communications and marketing associate, Harbor Hospital
Find out what others say about “Start Making Sense”
Jargon. Buzzwords. Acronyms. They’re things that make your readers go “huh?” And we need to get them out of our copy. Gobbledygook:
- Illustrates that your organization may be in trouble. There may be a link between jargon and poor business performance, according to a study by Deloitte Consulting. In one test, Enron’s language got more and more obscure as the company got deeper and deeper into trouble.
- Keeps the media from using your PR materials. Most Canadian journalists, for instance, believe that press releases filled with jargon frequently “get in the way” of their doing their jobs, according to a study by National Public Relations.
- Forces your reader to translate. Your audience may be able to figure out what you’re saying. But why make them work that hard?
- Demonstrates your ignorance. “When people don’t understand the material, they tend to go more with the original, often too-technical and undigested information from a primary source,” says Neita F. Geilker, Ph.D., a.k.a. “The Grammar Guru.” “A writer who really understands the information can translate it accurately into lay language.”
In today’s overloaded information environment, the best communicators are translators. In this handbook, you’ll learn to translate the language of your organization into the language of your readers.
With this manual, you’ll learn:
- How to avoid having your audience delete your message before opening it
- A four-step system for getting the gobbledygook out
- How to determine when to use jargon to streamline communication — and when to avoid it at all costs
- How to avoid telling your audience members that your communication is not for them
- How to communicate when you don’t know who’s in your audience
- What communicators at Coca-Cola, Fidelity Investments, Jenny Craig, CNS Bank, Hartford Investors, Aventis, The New York Times and other organizations have done to battle jargon
- How to develop a style guide for your organization
- A test you can use to determine which terms to use when pitching to trade publications
- How to gain power in the approval process
- A simple tool to add to every piece to make your copy more accessible
- A trick to steal from NASA to make rocket science — or whatever you’re writing about — more accessible
- How to solve the “visual duration-sensing apparatus” problem
- How eavesdropping can make your copy easier to read
- Techniques to steal from Warren Buffett to make complex financial information — as well as your organization’s technical terms — easier to understand
- Two ways to use the words in your readers’ heads, not the words in your head
- How to make sure your definitions aren’t more confusing than the original term
- A technique to steal from Carnegie-Mellon University for clarifying your complex concepts
- How your 12-year-old can help make your copy more comprehensible
- Plus 17 resources for getting the gobbledygook out
- And more tips for translating jargon
Remember: For your readers, clarity means never having to say “Huh?”
Reduce your learning curve
Ann’s learning tools are brisk and loaded with tips. In fewer than 44 minutes, you can be putting these techniques to work.
Plus, get Ann’s Start Making Sense cheat-sheet of formulas and checklists — all the action steps of the manual on one sheet of paper. Keep this checklist by your computer to use on every piece you write and edit. Our clients tell us that this job aide is one of the most valuable tools they receive for applying new skills to their daily writing.
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