One of my favorite viral posts is this, on the power dynamic surrounding the use of academic language. The same could apply, in many contexts, to business and legal jargon – or to the specialized language of any domain, really.
When I coach business owners and independent professionals about marketing, I notice that they are often very nervous about giving up the linguistic tics they’ve acquired during their education or the climb up the hierarchy of their profession. Suggesting that people write in plain language gets the response I’d expect if I asked them to give a professional presentation in the nude.
The analogy is not as silly as it sounds. To succeed in today’s marketplace means demonstrating your expertise while being humble enough to know that you put your pants on one leg at a time, just like everybody else.
Until about ten years ago, professional success meant impressing other professionals, demonstrating membership in the elite club. Before the advent of social media, impressing prospective clients or customers was often the same thing. The formula: become prominent in the industry, get public accolades and referrals. Now? Clients and customers expect the people they hire to speak to them. Directly. As equals.
The “academese curve” in the article shows a group at the far right, the established experts, who (secure in their positions) may abandon the mumbo-jumbo. Today there’s a second group of people who must abandon it: people who want to compete in a world where savvy consumers look for professionals who will partner with them to solve their problems rather than authority figures who act as gatekeepers to the mysteries.