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Cut the jargon. The best B2B writing is plain and simple

Charlotte Irwin

We’ve all met someone at a party who likes to use “big words”. While they might come across as very intelligent, do people actually listen to them? Or do they find the first opportunity to take refuge in the kitchen or slink off to the dance floor? Often, complex language isn’t what people want to hear. 

Experts are sick of jargon

It’s not just the case at parties. The same applies to B2B copy. When writing about technical, complex subjects for businesses, it can be tempting to use technical, complex language. How else will your expert audience believe that you know what you’re talking about? But even subject matter experts are sick of hearing their own jargon. The research is there to prove it.

Why does complex language fail to engage? Firstly, your audience is typically time poor. They need easy-to-digest content that gets to the point. And in an increasingly crowded landscape, jargon-filled content is easily ignored. Experts know their topics inside out and content that uses the same predictable, complex language will fail to stick in their minds. Instead, they want something bolder and simpler.

Big words hide big insecurities

Brands that rely on jargon also reveal a lack of self-confidence. Hiding behind “big words” can make your brand seem less credible. Rather than demonstrating know-how, they obscure the real meaning behind your brand and fail to differentiate your offering.

A confident brand doesn't over-explain. Instead, it uses simple language that is accurate and clear. That way the audience can quickly get a sense of what that brand does, what it stands for and, crucially, how it can benefit them. When people see clear content that answers their real-life problems they are more likely to read it and, most importantly, do something about it. It’s that simple.

Reach more people

Using simple language can also help your content reach a bigger audience in the first place. How? Simple yet relevant keywords will perform better for SEO and are more likely to get your content surfaced in search engines. 

Plain yet bold words also have a greater chance of stopping your audience in their tracks on social media platforms, which helps posts generate more engagement. Content that achieves this will gain more traction and have better reach than other posts.

Create copy that sticks

Copywriters should encourage their clients to cut the complexity and focus on plain and simple language. That’s how you create “sticky” content that is easy to read, memorable and subtly surprising. 

Here are my five writing tips to do just that:

  • Focus on the human impact
    First, you need to identify what you’re trying to say. Forget the technical details – even the experts will get bored by overly complex terms – and focus on the impact of a product or service. How will it improve your audience’s current way of doing things? How does it stand out from rival brands? How will it change people’s lives?
    Whether the answer is cost saving, more time or a better user experience, tap into the details that people actually care about.

  • Keep words short
    One of George Orwell’s six rules for writing was: “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”

    While you may need to use some technical terms, such as the name of a product, always check your copy for unnecessary jargon that has slipped through – and ask yourself, can you change it to something simpler? The same goes for long words in general. If there’s a shorter word with fewer syllables that means the same thing, use that instead.

  • Cut your sentences down
    It’s not just the length of words that can affect the sticking power of your language. The length of your sentences can impact comprehension, too. Short, punchy sentences are easier to read – and harder to ignore.

  • Simple structures for simple language
    Plain language will help you stand out, but if the order of your words is complicated you’ll soon lose your audience. The structure of your content is critical. So choose active verbs over passive verbs. And don’t be too clever. Lead with the main takeaway, otherwise your readers might skim and miss it.

  • Speak it out loud
    For me, this is the ultimate acid test. The best copy is conversational, following natural spoken rhythms. So read your copy out loud. You’ll soon spot the parts that don’t quite work. Even better, read it to someone who hasn’t seen it before. Coming to it fresh, their reaction will be much more revealing. 

The most important thing to remember? Experts are human like the rest of us. And when you’re speaking to an audience with knowledge, you don’t need to put on an “expert” voice. The best way to capture the room is to be honest, stay true to your message and don’t overdo it. That’s a pretty good formula for parties, too, I find.

This article previously appeared on Brands Journal in May 2023.