DeJargonator is Back

Sometimes I read things online and wonder “Why do people write like this?” Here’s an example:

RAMP (formerly EveryZing) is an advanced Content Optimization SaaS platform providing publishers’ workflow, discovery and engagement solutions to drive monetization of online content to users’ search and browsing behavior. RAMP offers publishers an open, flexible and modular capability to optimize large amounts of content, including text, audio, video and images, within dynamic publishing environments. As a result, publishers’ content becomes positioned for discovery and precise targeting, both on search engines and within publishers’ own websites. Users rely on such precision to discover and engage with content, thereby increasing the commercial viability of content for publishers while curtailing publishing costs.

There is a saying among lawyers, “If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” It’s clear the text above has gone with the latter option.

Just for fun let’s count the buzzwords – “SaaS, Content Optimization, modular capabilities…” Actually, forget it, the whole thing is buzzwords. It’s so heavy and ponderous I can barely make it through the first sentence.

I think it starts in high school where we learn to puff up our writing with garbage like this. In high school this style of writing, because it is incomprehensible, baffles people into submission and gets an A from the teacher because most likely they don’t know what the person is talking about either. It is safer to give the person an A than to ask “What the fuck does ‘advanced Content Optimization SaaS platform providing publishers’ workflow’ mean?”

But imagine a world where instead of using this tortured prose we wrote like we talked. I don’t work for [Company Name] but I’ll take a stab at rewriting the paragraph above into English:

“RAMP (formerly EveryZing) is a software package for web publishers. It allows them to easily manage their content including text, audio, video and images. It also helps with getting their web pages found in search engines.”

Done!

Remember the saying “Brevity is the soul of wit.” The shorter the sentence you can use to describe your company, the smarter you are going to look.

Dejargonator Revived

Nandini Jammi’s post about bad writing at Medium inspired me to revive The DeJargonator™ – my personal crusade against bad writing. The excerpt she received from a freelance writer made me wince:

You try your best to deliver great service to your customers, but the bigger your company gets, the easier it is to make mistakes, especially as our technology gets complicated. One simple mistake in a line your engineers’ code easily leads to negative experiences that can destroy relationships. Handle that situation wrong and you can lose even your most valuable and loyal customers. With social media it doesn’t take many loud complaints for your company’s otherwise sterling reputation will be gone.

So what can you do to quickly cool down a hot situation before it erupts into a disaster?

Ouch. You can almost hear the person mouthing the words breathlessly as they type them. They tumble out there with no real plan or slavish obedience to making sense.

The first sentence catches our attention with its vicious comma abuse. The second forces readers to stumble with its omission of the word “of” in “line your engineers’.” The last sentence, oh man. How fast did this person type this? It reads like he typed it while trying to catch a plane.

Alright, enough beating up on this person. Here’s how I rewrote it:

As a company grows, it becomes more difficult to deliver outstanding customer service. A bug in the code or a tech support call that goes awry can now be amplified and broadcast to thousands over social media.

What can you do to prevent a bad customer service incident from escalating into the next “United Breaks Guitars“?

Last sentence is good in that it uses a funny example but I don’t know the audience so my reference might sail over their heads. It’s hard to write when you don’t know the context of the larger article – am I writing for a product or a service or is this a general “How to Avoid Social Media Disasters” piece?

Anyway, thank you Nandini Jammi for inspiring me to revive this project. That’s the official DeJargonator™ revision – use it if you want.

Intro to Sailing

One thing that always looked interesting to me but I’ve never learned is sailing. Last week I picked up a book at the library to learn about it – a book I thought would be a good introductory primer. Here are the first few sentences in Chapter One:

“The layman often finds the many different types and designs of boat bewildering to say the least. For a start we have to distinguish between monohulls and multihulls. There are good many more monohulls and their main distinguishing feature is their deeper draft. The underwater part of the hull viewed from the side is called the lateral plane and provides lateral resistance, thus counteracting leeway. A fixed keel also plays a part in providing stability.”

Where did you lose it? Sentence number two with “monohulls” and “multihulls” was the first sign I was in trouble. Then the writer defines “monohull” with another word I don’t understand – “deeper draft.” Then the words “lateral plane”, “lateral resistance” and “leeway” are suddenly introduced to define the mysterious monohull. By the time I got to “fixed keel” I was done.

Good writing tip for technical people – make it so simple your kids can follow it. There is no shame in doing this. Making it easy to understand is what good writers, and teachers, do.