Working with a client this spring to develop new content for their financial services website that is straightforward, concise, and “human,” I was constantly reminded of just how difficult it is to reconcile the elegance of plain language with the client’s need to impress prospective clients by using corporate-speak and financial jargon. “This is madness,” I thought to myself (more than a few times).
This was a particularly difficult client because they were in the “institutional” investing marketplace. (And, no, that doesn’t mean their analysts were in mental hospitals or prisons — although a language survey some years ago uncovered that wonderful nugget! See my previous post: Are inmates managing your money?)
Of course it was understandable that they wanted to make sure their prospective clients knew they were experts in their discipline and members of an elite club of accomplished, knowledgeable financial analysts. So the jargon was code, as it is for attorneys and doctors, to demonstrate they had the required credentials.
Fortunately the web team I worked with was supportive of clear, concise language — in fact, they insisted on it. They also insisted that we talk in terms of “you” and use active verb forms to create strong connections with readers/site users. My marketing client was fully on board as well when I reminded her that good business and financial writing isn’t so much about telling your audience how smart you are, but instead, making THEM feel smart. (Thank you, Joseph Kimball, language guru par excellence!)
In any case, the site is up now and performing well. And even someone who isn’t “institutionalized” can understand it. Take a look!