“I don’t know the rules of grammar … If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.” David Ogilvy
If there’s one consistent mistake I’ve made over the years, it’s trying to be too smart.
How does “great” thought or complicated writing help anyone if they can’t understand it?
See, I believe in original thought, and want to make marketing and communications a better profession. I told Valeria Maltoni years ago
that I believe that I can make businesses and nonprofits better global citizens by improving communications.
Unless my concepts and ideas are too complicated for the general practitioner.
We all like to come off as smart people. God knows everyone wants to be respected by his or her peers.
It reminds me of Umberto Eco
and Neal Stephenson
‘s writings. I love both authors’ early works, in particular “The Name of the Rose,” “Snow Crash,” and “The Diamond Age.”
As Eco and Stephenson progressed in their careers, I sense they achieved more license with topics and editing. Their works became cumbersome and lost in eddies of thought and complicated diction. So I stopped reading them.
Tripping over myself
Looking at the motives behind some past writing efforts and blog posts, I tried to come off smarter and better
than the average marketer.
Mistakenly forged, these efforts usually landed with a deserved thud.
They lacked the elegant simplicity
of a well-communicated idea.
You would think as a marketer, I’d get this. Sometimes the shoemaker’s children get the worst footwear of the lot.
Much of this has to do with an old unnecessary chip on my shoulder from a craptastic childhood (pass the Kleenex, please). As time progresses, I increasingly check the primal instinct to prove myself, and show people my smarts.
There are also times when a concept just seems obvious to me, but it isn’t. My assumptions and open-ended declarations don’t help people understand.
Generally, I’m getting better at speaking plainly, but I do fall into the complicated trap still. The good news is that I’m quick to realize the error as opposed to getting frustrated.
What do you think? Do you appreciate a well-communicated idea or thick thought?
Geoff Livingston is an author, public speaker, and strategist who helps companies and nonprofits develop outstanding marketing programs. A version of this story first appeared on his GeoffLivingston.com.