Use Layman’s Terms – Stop Being an “Ass”umer

written by Mikaela L. Cowles on January 18, 2013 in Maintain Contact With Clients and Tone/Voice with no comments

Laymans Terms

This week I attended the inaugural meeting for the first all-women networking group at the Washington Athletic Club. It was amazing to be surrounded by such strong, successful women, but one thing struck me in particular. The entire group was inclusive. 

(An “ass”umer is an a** who makes assumptions about their audience.)

Women get this bad rap for being ‘clicky.’ (Perhaps some of it’s justified, but that’s a post for another day.) The thing is, in business you want your clients and prospects to be inside the circle. You want them to feel they’re included. This builds relationships and breeds loyalty.

One of the quickest ways to kick someone out of the circle is industry speak. Think layman’s terms. Always use simple and inclusive language. Stop being an “ass”umer.

Sure, you’re an industry expert. But, not everyone you talk to is. A lot of your potential clients aren’t specialists in your industry. That’s why they need you. For example this passage was taken from a how-to article on building your first engine:

Open-plenum intake manifolds deliver great high-rpm horsepower, but a dual-plenum intake is usually a better choice for a real-world, daily driver street machine. Decide how your car will be driven most of the time, and select engine components accordingly.

Huh? My sentiments exactly. If you’re a mechanic or car aficionado, you might know what an “open-plenum intake manifold” is. The rest of us are left scratching our heads or, worse, not caring.

It’s easy to slip into industry jargon. You find it familiar. To you, the meaning is obvious. Unfortunately, for your reader it’s not. Take a few moments and think about your reader. Who are they? How much do they know about your topic?

If your letter, article or website copy is targeted to other professionals in your industry, assuming a certain level of knowledge is okay. But you know what they say about assumptions…

In writing, erring on the side of giving your reader more is always the best bet. Give them examples and explanations in terms they are sure to understand.

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