Our clients often tell us that new graduates are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to bad writing at work. They come fresh from university and think the way to impress the people upstairs is with buzzwords and fancy language. Of course, what newbies don’t realise is that the people upstairs don’t actually want corporatespeak. Nobody does.
But the damage is already done. Most students have spent at least three years reading and writing rambling jargon-filled essays, and take those bad habits with them into the office. So we go from ‘significations invested in symbolic forms of culture’ at university, to ‘enabling multi-platform media interactions’ at work. (Yes, they’re both real quotes.)
We like to quote from an academic paper by Daniel M Oppenheimer in our workshops: Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.
Oppenheimer’s research says that people use long complicated words to sound clever and make their subject matter seem more important. But readers prefer writers who use shorter words and clear, concise English; and actually think they’re more intelligent too.
If students and recent graduates were given the confidence to write a little more like they speak, business (and academic) writing would improve overnight. So here it is: Write a little more like you speak. Drop the jargon. Use everyday language.
That’s all very well for history or English, you might say, but it doesn’t apply to physics. You can’t go dumbing down the theory of relativity. I’ll let Einstein field that one: ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.’
We’re with Albert.