Terry McDonell is right on the money when it comes to what makes good content “good”. He just doesn’t want to use the word content, which is OK with us. Here’s McDonell, editor of Time Inc.’s Sports Group, which publishes Sports Illustrated among other properties, describing his colleague Paul Fichtenbaum, who was just named SI’s editorial director:
“One of the best things about Paul as an editor and digital leader is that he doesn’t talk too much about content, which now means so many things that it often means nothing. And that goes double when you put either amazing or incredible in front of content…Editors should not talk like that. My point is that Paul is jargon-free, which is one of the many things that stamp him as a serious journalist.”
The emphasis on jargon-free is ours. We couldn’t have said it better or be in stronger agreement. One of our guiding precepts at Write Angle is jargon-free marketing content, as our clients will attest. Above all, good writing is simple and clear. It’s also a daunting task, as anyone who has ever sat down and tried to make complicated concepts readable will agree. In the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Easy reading is damned hard writing.” Or, as jazzman Charles Mingus put it, “Very few can take the complicated and make it simple.”
One of the ways we try to make it simple is to purge the jargon. Unfortunately, simple language has never been a hallmark of technology marketing and writing. On the contrary, techno-babble and gobbledygook have been the rule since long before the Internet age. Web 2.0 has not really altered this language landscape. And so we applaud efforts by the folks at HubSpot, among others, on behalf of beleaguered technology readers, users and buyers, to make website content, especially the techie variety, easier to read. Still, it remains damned hard writing.
Is your marketing content jargon-free? What is your jargon-detection process?