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November 21, 2011

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Todd Bartlett

David,

Excellent post. As the Heath brothers point out in their book, Made to Stick, simplicity is the first rule for writing well.

Todd

Rgielecki

Good post, keep up your mission, David. But I still have no picture what's the company's special value (what it means for software to be central in computing application?). Although maybe it's because English is not my first language...You should make gobbledygook rewriting contests from time to time. Would be fun.

David Meerman Scott

Rgielecki - Gobbledygook re-writing contests. Great idea!

Petko Karamotchev

David,

Your observations are completely correct. This site appears to be written by a PR person with no access to Internet.

In your proposal I didn't quite get how an engine can be "central", but probably this is only me.

It would be big fun to see the Gobbledygook Top 25 phrases for 2011.

Cheers,
Petko

Ann Marie Gagliardi

I was familiar with ITA before reading your blog. When reading the About Us page it was confusing because it didn't describe what I already knew about the company. Nice work, much improved.

Bob James

I like to warn anyone who will listen: Gobbledygook is more dangerous than you think.

It can destroy any possibility of gaining prospects' trust in your organization.

"You get one chance to be clear with people nowadays," writes Michael Maslansky in The Language of Trust, "and if you blow it, their trust goes out the window along with their comprehension. This is because they now put the burden of understanding squarely on your shoulders."

John Cousineau

David: brilliant point, brilliantly illustrated by your re-write. For what it's worth, our research shows that B2B sales people often write in an equally abstract fashion + when they do it's a conversation killer. By contrast, when they make their messages to buyers briefer, simpler to read, and more customer-focused, buyers open their doors to continued conversations. It takes added effort to write clear messages; thanks for reminding us that it's worth the effort. - John

David Meerman Scott

This has been a fun exercise. Is my language perfect? No way. I just wanted to show the dangers of gobbledygook.

Bob Zagami

The ITA post was written by and for MIT graduates .. your re-write was written for people who fly that actually do the research and buy the tickets! They are called "customers."

Mike Garland

Always a great topic. I find two types of companies with this issue- 1. Companies operated by detailed, technical personalities who focus on the product more than the customer and 2. Companies with unsupervised and unseasoned copy writers who think that gobbledygook is good.
The best descriptions come from people with interaction with the customer who can speak in their terms. I find it also helps to test market these descriptions with the target market before publishing, to protect myself from myself.

Mary Mancera

I love your brain David Meerman Scott. Thank you for attempting to restore sanity to the world. When I read press releases that sound like the web copy you analyzed here and I ask the silly question "what does that mean" I sometimes get funny looks from others. Oh well

David Meerman Scott

Mike - I think you are right about the root causes.

Bob & Mary - it seems so simple - just write for your customers. But few companies do it,

Jay Gilmore

David,

This makes me think of Vincent Flanders' book and companion website http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/ that began in the 90s. Looking at examples of bad design to demonstrate how to do it right. I think there's a whole community that can be built around this for copywriting for business.

John White

Certainly better.

Say, "help" wasn't among the gobbledygook words you found, was it? I'm not sure, but I try to avoid using the verb "help" in my writing. It's good for focusing on your readers' needs, but somehow I think people don't really want help.

SteveKayser

David -- thanks for taking the proactive & positive approach to helping this company out. It's easy to ridicule. To criticize. To embarrass. But it’s classy to try to help others with no anticipation of benefit. Because of your beneficence - you were blog-jacked, news-jacked, cartooned ... and might have saved the world's economy.

http://expertaccess.cincom.com/2011/11/on-writing-simply/

David Meerman Scott

Jay - some classic sucky sites there. Thanks.

John - I never intended my cut to be perfect. You're probably right about "help"

Steve - Awesome! Love the cartoons. Thanks so much, my friend.

Ron Carter

Thanks David for not only helping the ITA Software folks explain what they do, but for also helping several of us who follow your blogs in real time.

Doug Brockway

David -

Once again, you certainly touched a nerve on the Gobbledygook front. I find myself in a strange place on the subject in that the top word in Gobbledygook Grader is "Innovation" and I'm in the middle of helping a client with that right now. Sometimes there's real work behind a word but the Copywriting Cognoscenti have so over used it that an otherwise worthy idea loses favor...

BUT, in honor of today, Turkey Day, thanks for the [Gobbledygook] Manifesto.

TeresaSimons

Excellent post David. So often companies use internal jargon and gobbleygook to fill pages when it would be better to leave it out or even better to hand it over to an objective third party for editing. I wonder too if the company is monitoring conversations around their brand since we do not see any responses to your post here or improvements to their site.

David Meerman Scott

Ron - my pleasure.

Doug - Once you set your radar to "innovation" you see that stupid word everywhere. It is simply too overused to convey any meaning. If every technology company is innovative, what good is it to say so?

Teresa - I have noticed that the company has not jumped in. But I had expected that because they are clearly inward focused.

Joy Marion

I've said this is employers and clients alike...no one understands your nonsense yet it has lost me more than one project because they think their language is wonderful but who cares if you can't figure out what the heck they do!?

Good grief!

Ronald

Nice article, David!
The idea of simplicity can be applied to writing on the web in general. Being simple in words is quite a good way to make the readers understand what they are reading.

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