What She Really Meant to Say

What do you suppose Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay, really meant when she said she was “encouraged by the fundamentals that underlie usage growth on the net”?

A)  She believes eBay is more popular than ever
B)  She’s glad Internet technology is growing
C)  She’s happy more people are using the net

In keeping with Ms. Whitman’s language choices, I have to say that I am discouraged by the fundamentals that underlie usage of obscure communications in business. That is, I’m sad that so many business people are more concerned with sounding intellectual than they are with communicating clearly.

Simplicity is the name of the game in getting your message across, and in the end, it’s not what you say that matters. What your client or prospect hears is the critical factor.

Five Guidelines for Clear Messaging:

  1. Avoid words that require a dictionary for interpretation. Few people will bother to look them up.
  2. Use short sentences. Try to keep each sentence under 20 words. Break longer thoughts into multiple sentences.
  3. Make your message relevant. If what you say doesn’t matter to your intended audience, you will not be heard.
  4. Find a clear, concise message and stick with it.
  5. Do not assume your reader thinks and believes as you do.

In the end, language is a tool used to inform and enlighten. The simple choice between one word and another really does make a difference in how your message is understood.

As Dr. Frank Luntz says in his book Words that Work, we need to make people the center of our communication, not the target.