Say what? The perils of business jargon.

How would you describe your skills and aspirations?

You could quote one of the following examples:

‘My first word wasn’t ‘mummy’. It was ‘money’.’
‘Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.’
‘I’m a Swiss Army Knife of bouncy skills’.

If you did, you’d be quoting directly from one of the recent candidates on BBC’s The Apprentice.

As these vomit-inducing quotes remind us, The Apprentice candidates tend to have pretty high opinions of themselves. They also seem more than capable of sprouting meaningless jargon. One example candidate this series was Richard Woods (author of that final quote, no less).

Richard was pretty good. He won the most tasks. He had strong ideas. He created ‘Western’: a shampoo brand, and marketing campaign, that was quite impressive. Staggeringly self-assured, it looked like Richard had a free pass to the final.

Unlike we heard his business plan.

Verat, Claude Littner, The Apprentice, Jargon, Copywriter

Claude Littner read aloud:

‘Project X: a fully managed and implemented business growth campaign, that starts with a focussed base-camp to remove the clouds from the client’s business growth mountain so they clearly see the summit they’re aiming for.’


To quote Claude Littner himself: ‘it’s a like a bad 1980s marketing book. It’s mumbo-jumbo’.

If you dug below the jargon, there seemed to be a service there that was pretty good. It appeared to be an effective idea. But you really had to really dig. Deep. Hire a jargon translator. Sift through a sea of meaningless nonsense until – eventually – you thought you had a rough grasp of what he was banging on about.

Trying to work out what Richard was actually talking about was really hard. And, ultimately, it became his downfall.

Verat, Richard Woods, The Apprentice, Jargon, Copywriter

When writing for your audience, you have to get inside their heads. Think like your customers, and talk to them in a way that they’ll understand. Whether you’re pitching to a leading business mind or talking to a primary school child, if they can’t understand you then there’s no point whatsoever.

When it’s your business, and your ideas, objectivity can fly out of the window. You’re so involved, you write using your knowledge. Your expertise. Your industry terms, and your company jargon.

Your audience probably won’t understand what on earth you’re talking about. Even worse, they might think you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Being deliberately misleading. Selling them something they don’t need. And you’ll come across as untrustworthy (a little like Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Woods).

Cut the jargon. Deliver a clear, concise message. Communicate what you do in simple terms. Be relatable. Tell your audience know why you’re so great. And let your customers have faith in you.

Struggling to get to the point? I’ll take an objective look, and help you out. Drop me a line, and we’ll chat.

All images and quotes c/o The Apprentice, BBC One.

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