A lawyer recently took Instagram’s Terms and Conditions and rewrote them so teenagers could understand which of their rights they were giving away when they clicked “agree”.

That got the Brand Newsroom team thinking about the power of using plain language instead of politi-speak, jargon, academic terminology and mangled English.

Nic Hayes is our host this week. He’s joined by Sarah Mitchell and Jonathan Crossfield. Stay listening to the end to hear our new segment, “On My Desk”, where the team makes recommendations you might well enjoy.


Show Notes

Here are some key take-outs:

  • Ask yourself what is the purpose of the language I’m using? Who is the audience? What are you trying to communicate?
  • Often brands and people use more complicated language than is necessary because they’re trying to sound intelligent. Actually, it’s more important to get your message across effectively.

“Anyone who’s watched a politician at work will know they often choose their words to obfuscate what they’re trying to say or avoid saying.” — Jonathan Crossfield


  • Jargon and clichés are easy to fall into because they’re often the first words that come to mind if you work in the field you’re writing about. So don’t publish the first draft — rewrite with simpler phrases and language until your message is clear.
  • Keep a list of your trigger words — the ones you overuse but don’t really need.

“We get into these habits of saying things we think make us sound smart or we think our audience wants to hear — and often it’s describing our products or services in exactly the same way everybody else does. When you actually go in and remove those words, you end up sounding a whole lot smarter than before.” — Sarah


  • Traditional newspapers and magazines write for a reading age of 12 to 15 years old. That is to say, in simple language.
  • Keep a style guide to help you and your writing team not only use simple terms but use them consistently with a clear and shared understanding of what is meant by each word or term.
  • Use an editor. Have someone look over what you’ve written.

“One of the reasons why a lot of people say Donald Trump has been really effective is because his vocabulary has been tracked at that of a nine-year-old. That said, often the concepts he puts across are quite vague and that allows people to put their own meaning to those words and that works in his favour.” — Jonathan Crossfield


Here are the links you might need

  • Here’s that article Nic mentioned with the marketing clichés you should avoid
  • Sarah mentioned Bernadette Jiwa’s lean writing style. You can read her blog here. And here’s Seth Godin’s blog, too. 


‘On My Desk’


Have you heard the one about…

Recently James, Sarah and Nic took a close look at why a brand evangelist is more effective than a salesperson.


And here’s a discussion about the rise of fake news and the post-truth era.


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