Why Fancy Talk and Shop Talk are Big Don’ts
3/21/2019 11:46:59 AM
By: Anne Sittner-Anderson, Communications Coordinator for the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing
“At our company, we believe that all new products should bring specific and measurable improvements to a patient's overall quality of life and access to health. We ask patients and practitioners what features and improvements they want in their medical products — then we get to work. In recent years, we have answered patient demands for better quality in all environments, simpler and faster controls and adjustments, and products that are more discreet and attractive. In the process, we've set new standards for the industry.” – Anonymous Company Website
Consider the previous paragraph. What is this company trying to say? As a customer, are you confused? Could the company’s message be simplified and summed up into one sentence?
Perhaps a simple, “We listen to patient and provider feedback, then use their recommendations to create the new high-quality products they want,” would suffice. It gets to the point a lot quicker and you don’t have to pause and decode the message.
In fact, there is a high probability that most of this company’s customers skip over this content.
According to the Nielson Norman Group, the average amount of time that a user stays on a webpage is less than a minute. In fact, users usually leave the page within 10-15 seconds, and they tend to take in only the title and the single, most visible message. This means you have mere seconds to make your point. Don’t confuse your reader by using too many or complicated words. Leave the fancy talk off your website if you want your users to remember your information.
So using the example above, imagine you are holding the paragraph in one hand, and the sentence in the other hand. Which hand feels heavier and which one is lighter? Most, if not all, would say, “I remember the point of the simple sentence the best.”
“specific and measurable improvements”
“overall quality of life and access to health”
“simpler and faster controls and adjustments”
These word choices are fine in conversations between medical professionals but do real-life patients usually talk like this?
Do you think the audience could repeat the information back to their friends or family?
No and no.
If the audience members can read what’s on the website and are able to repeat the same information to themselves, this would be a BIG win for communication effectiveness.
In 2014, then-Governor Mark Dayton signed Executive Order 14-07, which required the Office of the Governor and all state agencies to communicate with the public using plain language principles. This was a wise move as it obligated our state employees to produce content that can be more easily understood.
Plain Language is communicating so people can understand content the first time they read or hear it. Minnesotans benefit with clarity, saved time, and improved satisfaction. To achieve this, do following steps:
Luckily, there are tons of resources for writing in plain language for the web. Here are a few.
Special thanks to Dave Andrews and Emory David Dively for their contributions to this article.
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