Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Plain Language

Whenever I hear a speaker use language that is unduly complicated, it sparks several reactions:

  1. "This person is blowing smoke to hide a lack of expertise."
  2. "This person confuses complexity with depth and is seeking to impress us."
  3. "This person may not be trying to deceive or impress anyone but simply doesn't know the subject well enough to put it in plain language."
  4. "This person may know the subject, but doesn't care enough about the audience to put it in terms that are easier to understand."
I realize that there are other possible interpretations but my usual conclusion is the third. I've met executives and managers who sincerely believe that they know a subject but, when pressed to describe it in plain language, they are stymied.

I've mentioned this idea before but a very wise Human Resources Director of my acquaintance writes a clear description of key HR issues on large note cards. When she finishes a management book, she jots what she learned on those note cards. It is a simple and brilliant habit because translating the complex into the simple is one of the surest ways to learn a subject.

If you can't put it in plain language, perhaps you don't know it.


Anonymous said...

Former director of mine had a talent for long incomprehensible speeches. I remember clearly after one such soliloquy, one of my coworkers saying... "That guy is too smart- I can't understand anything he said."

I answered with... "I don't think there was anything to understand..." - Bobboccio

Michael Wade said...


That ability may have served him well in graduate school.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha. Come to think of it, he did have an MBA - Bobboccio