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October 19, 2011


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Ann Handley

One of the best examples of Frankenspeak I've seen yet! Thanks for the shout, David!


Technically, the first series is not actually parallel, i.e. "have assembled," "have a," and "developed" are inconsistant in their structure. Anybody that expects anybody to read what they write should know that elements of a series should reflect identical structures.


David this makes me so laugh at myself! When you leave the corporate world to be self-employed, (if you are not a marketing pro) marketing comes flying in your face as a major survival task. I suppose for most that's mixed up with the notion of advertising as well - another place to go astray. In my own case I was lost at sea of an idea of what to say or how to say it and still am from time to time. All the old formal, corporate, bland ways of talking come stream forward as the only way to 'be' for this task.

What I really appreciate about this digital age is just the new way of being, of building relationships, and a new way of talking. You know for a lot of people this is still very novel and I think there is almost a need to 'get permission' to get rid of the gobbledegook. Mostly I appreciate marketing industry professionals like you for so many great posts, and tools to help. Learning about marketing has never been easier than now.



As a healthcare copywriter I wade through hyperbolic, medically focused gobbledygook constantly. While I can't excuse this organization-centric marketing, I think I can explain a few reasons why it continues.

Most hospitals...

* Have no content strategy. Hospital content marketing tools--from collateral to direct mail to website copy--are almost always tactical and produced ad hoc. Rarely do hospital marketers ask: "Why do I need this tool?" "How does it speak to patient's pain points? "Is this REALLY the platform or channel that best serves the patient?"

* Don't get buy-in from content stakeholders at the beginning of the content creation process. Physicians, nurses, support staff, administrators, marketing, IT-- all have a stake in content. But they rarely communicate until AFTER the content is created. That's when they weigh in, veto and redirect, not infrequently sending writers back to start from scratch. It's at this point that--at the request of a powerful stakeholder--writers often start adding in the "innovative," "state of the art," language.

* Give doctors editorial power--and final say--over the copy. Do you want a copywriter to perform a catheter procedure on you? I didn't think so. I feel the same way about docs messing around with content. The reason the copy gets so jargony? Without being conscious of it, doctors write for other doctors--i.e., they write to impress their peers, not to build relationship with patients.

* Mistake jargon for a USP. Doctors and scientists honestly believe their training , expertise, facilities, equipment, etc., are second to none, state-of-the-art, innovative, unparalleled. They believe these attributes set them apart and differentiate them from other facilities. But in NYC, where I live, ALL hospitals and physicians are second to none, state-of-the-art, innovative, unparalleled. These attributes do NOT differentiate them. What will? Solid, strategic content marketing--loads of truly useful, patient-centric information. And social media initiatives that let patients see doctors' human side, ask questions, get answers, feel informed and empowered to make life-and death decisions.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks to all of you for your very thoughtful comments.

Lorraine - yes, Thanks so much for sharing your perspective as someone who lives this. I've seen similar behavior in many industries especially financial services. While that is what goes on I think it is possible to do better. Success comes from plain language. I suggest people write as if sending a letter to their mother. As for getting in all of the stuff that the bosses want, that can still be there but in parts of the site where people go for detailed information about a particular department or procedure.

Lee Taylor

I agree that hospitals and other institutions should use words that humans can understand and eliminate all the the jargon. The focus should not be to market or influence individuals with sophisticated words of car but to be genuine and really care for patients. Actions speak louder than words and it should not be about the "innovative" or "state of the art" equipment that matters. The doctors should provide each patient with the standard of care as required and be passionate about their job and patients.

David Meerman Scott

Lee -- exactly.


WE were just speaking of this in a content area meeting four our teachers (I work at an international school). We talked about the importance of knowing the jargon, but then (as Hemingway advises), being brave enough to avoid obfuscation. (Well, he doesn't there, but we get the idea.) Well said.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks Mark. If you have any links to mission critical cutting edge school gobbledygook we'd love to see it.

Ben Locker

While we're at it, can we all stop using the word 'excited' in press releases? Every time I see it, I just know the work 'opportunity' is hot on its heels...

David Meerman Scott

Ben, the other press release one is "pleased."

Every CEO who says "I am pleased to..." sounds like an idiot to me because it is so overused. Of course it is not the CEOs fault. It is the silly PR people who insist on doing it that way.

Remco Janssen

Hi David,

May I politely ask you to stop writing about gobbledygook? Everytime I read one of your posts on this topic, I receive a press release from ZyXEL stockpiled with jargon, GG and lots of other stuff I don't understand. Somehow, there must be some kind of cosmic interference here causing all of this.

As I have no influence on ZyXEL, I must urge you: do not write about Gobbledygook again!

*big fat ;-)*

Thanks again for your relentless efforts to destroy GG!

Cheers, Remco

David Meerman Scott

Remco -- Funny you should say that. Every time I write about gobbledygook I notice more of it. I guess when you're aware of this nonsense it is easier to spot.

Ian Brodie

This is indeed filled with mucho gobbledeygook.

I wonder if anyone here would be brave enough to attempt a rewrite - so we can see what something better looks like: I'm a bit frightened!

To be fair to whoever wrote this guff, I think it's easier to write simply outside your field.

If you look just at our comments on this post for example, you'll see phrases like "content strategy", "stakeholders", "collateral", "USP". These are not words normal human beings use in conversation either.

Maybe not as bad as the press release - but it does show we all get trapped in the jargon of our particular profession or cause.


David Meerman Scott

Ian, you are absolutely correct that we all have our jargon. USP? WTF!

Ian Brodie


Ian Brodie

Seriously though, sometimes jargon works. It marks you as an insider. Part of the community.

In this case though, I assume the target audience is potential patients - so the jargon. And much of it is fluff really, not jargon.


Ian Brodie

Lordy, I can't type today. I meant to say that "In this case though, I assume the target audience is potential patients (and relatives and benefactors) - so the jargon doesn't help".


David, you make me laugh and cause me to think. Both really good things. This past week BANG (Bay Area News Group) backpedaled on an earlier (Aug 23) announced the consolidation of 11 bay area mastheads to 2. Mack Tully's presser was captured on video and imbedded in the on-line news story. I quit watching after 3 minutes, all I could think about was "gobbledygook!" :)

Sarah Samuel

Well it does seem like Gobbledygook is a no-no..I'm pretty sure the men at the top..or at least the ones who are writing the lines for them do have the sense to know that...so why is GG everywhere?

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