Speaking in tongues – why language seeks simplicity

Why is it that, when writing for any kind of purpose, most people feel the need to swallow a thesaurus? We see it constantly in the business world – huge, unintelligible chunks of long words that need translating before anyone can make any sense of them. And, more to the point, it’s just not needed

Why? You might think that it makes you feel clever and important, but the bottom line is complicated language turns people off. Using Plain English, as it’s commonly called, is friendly and pitched at a level that suits your reader. There’s no need for dumbing down – it’s just using language in a way that everyone understands.

What would you think if you read this at the end of a letter? “If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone.”

Wouldn’t you prefer just to see, “If you have any questions, please phone us”? Much easier, isn’t it? There’s no need to read it multiple times or go in search of your dictionary.

And this doesn’t just count for external communications either. If you value your employees and you want to treat them like the human beings they are, you should be talking to them in an open and honest way.

Next time you’re writing something, read it back to yourself and think twice about the words you’re using. Are you overcomplicating things? Could you use a simpler word instead? For example, use ‘extra’ instead of ‘additional’; ‘so’ instead of ‘consequently’ and ‘about’ instead of ‘regarding’.

Your readers will thank you.