We are taught from a young age to demonstrate our intelligence through complex writing, on the assumption that this reflects complex thought. Extensive vocabulary is highly regarded, and the insertion of jargonistic language scores you the best grades.
I remember writing essays through high school with the thesaurus open looking for better words, with the single aim of making myself appear “smarter”. This continued through university, writing marketing essays which lead with “There is current disparity in the literature regarding both…”.
Introducing jargon is the way of showing you know your stuff, and its rewarded again and again.
But when should this change?
The world of business is proliferated full of jargon, where it seems the goal is to confuse the reader so much that they assume your intelligence is greater and therefore they should just trust you. In linking to Brian’s article on the Trust Equatio, the use of complex language is a great way to build credibility. However if your goal is to prove you are more intelligent than your reader, you are failing to build trust because you are being undermined by your own self interest.
But is there an alternative, a way to communicate that draws the reader in and takes them on the journey with you?
Simplicity. The art of elegance. Perfect word selection. Poignant moments of clarity. (Is that starting to get too wordy again?). No one says simplicity is simple - rather, it is achieved by wrestling through the complexity of what you want to say, and producing something at the end… Simplicity is not about “dumbing down” what you are trying to say. It’s about communicating in a way that respects the reader’s intelligence, delivering a clear and concise message that uses just the right choice of words.
What still remains a question is how can we shift from rewarding complex thought and language, to celebrating the achievement of simplicity rather than “simple”.