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Library: Use plain english to serve your customers


by Gary Chow

Memo to computer store staff: speak to customers in plain English and drop the jargons and buzzwords. If you want to serve and help, answer questions and explain your products in lucid, precise language. Listen to the questions and answer directly, and use words people can understand without having to refer to a jargon dictionary. This way you might even make the sale.

This thought came to mind when I shopped in a large computer chain store the other day. I was ‘served’ by a smartly dressed young man who seemed to have graduated from the school of impenetrable language – with honours. As the tech-speak poured out of him, I swear I saw his head wobble. He was that chuffed with himself.

He may have known what he was talking about but he didn’t communicate it very well. He was too accustomed to speaking in gobbledygook tech-speak. He had huge problems in explaining what he meant in simple terms. I know because he stumbled whenever I asked, ‘yes but what does that mean?’ He did not enlighten me in anyway. I left more confused than when I entered.

When you write and speak using industry jargon, buzzwords and corporatespeak you build a wall between you and your audience. You’re effectively saying ‘I’m an insider’ and you’re not. When you communicate in gobbledygook you use the language of exclusion not inclusion. You also come across as arrogant and insecure, using meaningless words to cover up what you actually don’t know. Gobbledygook is the language of the BS-artist, and most people can detect one within seconds.

Gary Chow

Gary Chow operates Lucid Lingo, a copywriting and web content writing service based in Brisbane. Services include writing, editing and proofreading documents for publication in print or on the Internet. Gary writes in plain English and specialises in search engine optimised website content, marketing collateral such as brochures, flyers and newsletters, as well as corporate publications such as annual reports, product description statements (PDS), and tender proposals.

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