Everyone in business needs to write emails, reports or content for websites, but often they’re badly written. There are two things I see time and again – jargon or management speak, and using too many adjectives, superlatives and intensifiers.

Jargon

Jargon isn’t necessarily bad, in technical and scientific industries it’s essential to convey a specific meaning. Management speak, though, is a type of jargon more often used to cover up wooly thinking or attempt to make the author sound clever. It rarely works.

For business writing, the audience usually isn’t part of a specific technical community and everyone appreciates it when buzzwords are avoided. I was recently told off (quite rightly) for using the phrase “low-hanging fruit” during a meeting. It would have been better to say “do the easy stuff first”.

Most people avoid the most irritating phrases like “let’s touch base”, “paradigm shift” and “blue sky thinking”, but it’s easy to slip into the kind of language the Plain English Campaign fights to avoid. Here is a short list of management speak and what to say instead:

AvoidUse

add value to improve
at an early date soon
come on stream start
commence start
continued to remain stayed
endeavour try
end result result, conclusion
engage with talk to, contact
facilitate help, ease
general consensus of opinion consensus
is of the opinion that thinks
meaningful discussions talks
of the order of about
subsequently next, then
utilise use
with regard to about
with the exception of except

Unnecessary words

Soon after the low hanging fruit incident, I was inspired to write this post when we spent several hours proof reading the text for our relaunched website and found plenty of unnecessary words or badly phrased sentences.

If the meaning of the sentence isn’t changed, removing intensifiers like really or absolutely, and superlatives like fantastic will make the text crisper and read better.

Sounds salesy and waffly

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Punchy and to the point

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There is lots more information at the Plain English Campaign, including examples like this:
Before

High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process.

After

Children need good schools if they are to learn properly.