Corporate speak and copywriting don’t mix. Just ask science.

June 9, 2023 •
Corporate Jargon

In the corporate world, businesses love throwing around jargon and ‘corporate speak.’ Supposedly, it’s meant to make things sound more professional, but let’s be honest, it just creates more issues.

All those fancy buzzwords, ridiculously long sentences, complicated words and passive constructions make it impossible for regular people to understand what you’re saying. It’s like you’re trying to strip away any hint of humanity and make communication feel cold and impersonal.

Using fancy words and technical jargon definitely has its place, but when that complicated language starts creeping into every single interaction with your customers or in your official materials, it can start working against you.

So, what’s the problem with corporate speak?

Ever been on a company’s website and still had no clue what they actually do or who they’re all about? Seriously, the words are there, but they’re buried under a mountain of confusing jargon and super-long sentences. It’s as if they’re trying to keep you guessing instead of being upfront and transparent.

Corporate speak hides the human side that helps people connect with your business, and you risk turning your organisation into a soulless corporate robot when you go all-in on fancy industry jargon.

When your customers can’t connect with your business, it’s like dealing with a vague and insincere entity. They’re left in the dark, facing problems with someone taking ownership. And when you use distant and impersonal language, it’s hard for customers to feel that positive connection. Engagement takes a hit.

When something is hard to understand, readers are less likely to believe it

Here’s a cool neuroscience concept for you: cognitive ease. It basically says that if something is easy to read, it’s more likely to be true. It’s all about how our brains effortlessly process information, known as fluency.

One person who delved deep into this phenomenon is Norbert Schwarz, a psychologist from the University of Michigan. His extensive research revealed that when information is easy to understand, people tend to believe it more. And this also holds true for written text. Clear and straightforward writing is often seen as more truthful.

So, what does this mean for businesses? Well, it highlights the importance of using language that’s easy to grasp. When you avoid corporate jargon and complicated phrases, you make it simpler for your audience to connect with your message. The less they have to work to understand you, the more likely they are to embrace what you’re saying.

In a nutshell, strive for clarity and simplicity in your communication. Make it easy for your audience to absorb your message, and watch how they readily accept it.

When you use unfamiliar terms, readers don’t like the message

The Mere Exposure Effect is a truly fascinating psychological phenomenon that tells us a lot about how we see and interact with the world. In the 1960s, a psychologist named Robert Zajonc delved into this effect and found some mind-blowing insights into human behaviour.

Basically, we tend to like things more when we’re familiar with them – yep, that sounds about right!

That applies to written words and language too. When we come across all that complicated corporate jargon that we’re not used to, naturally, our lizard brain perceives the message as less appealing or relatable.

When you keep it simple, use straightforward language, and repeat core messages (humans also like repetitiveness), you’ll see a big boost in how your audience engages and responds. It’s all about making those strong connections with your target audience and leaving a lasting impression.

You could also be invoking confirmation bias

It becomes even more challenging if customers have heard negative experiences about your company, whether customer service related or otherwise. That’s when confirmation bias comes into play, amplifying the situation.

Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to seek, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms our existing beliefs.

If there’s been some talk about your customer service not hitting the mark, and when these people visit your website and see it’s filled with corporate jargon, it may unknowingly activate this bias. The language used is impersonal and vague, doing nothing to challenge the negative perception they already hold. Confirmation bias is triggered, reinforcing their negative views, regardless of their authenticity.

The faceless nature of corporate speak

Corporate communication tends to utilise grammatical language such as passive voice. Unfortunately, this approach inadvertently strips businesses of their human essence, transforming them into faceless entities. Take a look at these examples:

  • “Quarterly reports were reviewed by the board” (passive) versus “Our board reviewed the quarterly reports” (active).
  • “It was decided…” (passive) versus “We decided…” (active).
  • “It’s recommended…” (passive) versus “We recommend…” (active).

This detachment can be detrimental in an era where consumers crave personal connections with the brands they support. As a corporation, you need to remember that, at your core, your business is about people serving people.

Companies that rely too heavily on corporate jargon become ghostly entities, totally disconnected from the real world. Instead of being relatable and down-to-earth, they become vague and hard to grasp. Sure, it might give off an air of professionalism, but there’s a catch. Customers struggle to understand corporate jargon and relate to a company, and instead of having real conversations, they get stuck in a never-ending monologue full of confusing sentences and bureaucratic mumbo jumbo.

Furthermore, when people dehumanise something, they think and act more aggressively towards them. Not exactly the reaction you’d want for your business and brand. This insight comes from Nour Kteily, an Associate Professor of Management & Organizations at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA.

Anonymity can also have detrimental effects because humans are wired to connect better when seeing a face. We tend to trust someone more when we can visually see them. It makes sense, right? A lot of our communication is non-verbal, and facial expressions speak volumes. Take customer testimonials on websites, for example. They become way more convincing when there’s a photo of the customer alongside them.

Like the study by Norbert Schwarz, I wouldn’t be surprised if this lack of ‘face ‘is also perceived as less relatable and trustworthy.

Simple language is easier to understand, remember, and relate to

Corporate speak that’s long, complicated and full of jargon can make things confusing and hard to remember. It can also affect customer loyalty. Here’s why:

  • Overcomplicated: Fancy jargon and overly technical language can confuse customers. If people can’t understand what they’re reading or hearing, chances are they won’t remember it or find it interesting. And chances are, the message you want to relay is more straightforward than the jargon and terms you’re using.
  • Dehumanised: When you use corporate jargon, it often means there’s no personal touch, and personal touch is what really connects with customers. When people see a company that seems dehumanised, It weakens customer loyalty.
  • There’s no trust: When customers perceive that a company is trying to confuse or hide information behind jargon, it can undermine trust. Trust is a vital component of customer loyalty.
  • Different levels of knowledge: Some people are on different reading levels or have less industry knowledge than others. So, when you use dense, jargon-filled language, it reduces the number of people who can connect with the message you’re trying to send.

Instead, keep the copy clear, short, and simple so everyone can understand. You should stop writing copy as if you’re talking with other corporate entities. You’ve got to invite your audience – clients and customers – into the conversation.

Connect with your audience by humanising your copy

Using corporate speak can really get in the way of effective communication and create distance between your business and your audience. So it’s time to switch it up and embrace a more human and authentic language that helps your audience connect and build trust. This approach means putting clarity first, ditching all that confusing jargon, and being open and accountable.

By doing this, your business can stand out from the crowd of faceless corporations and form stronger relationships with your customers and clients. The key is to keep it simple, straightforward, and personable – language that invites conversation and promotes understanding.

Ultimately, a more human approach to communication benefits everyone and sets the stage for a successful and sustainable business.

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