Avoid the Complexity Trap


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

Avoid the Complexity Trap

“Smart people respect simple language not because simple words are easy, but because expressing interesting ideas in small words takes a lot of work.”

— Derek Thompson

Unprecedented circumstances have dictated we ideate a pivot-point strategy for curating an agile and humancentric digital transformation.

Confused? Yeah, so are we. 

This bewildering sentence includes a mash-up of selections from 2021’s most annoying business buzzwords.

You might have heard people refer to such jargon-heavy writing as business speak; we call it garbage language because it lacks clarity and creates misunderstanding. So why do people keep using it?

Blame it on the complexity trap.

As The Atlantic's Derek Thompson explains, “Complicated language and jargon offer writers the illusion of sophistication, but jargon can send a signal to some readers that the writer is dense or overcompensating.”

He reminds us that simple is smart

How can I avoid the complexity trap?

The solution, as always, is to communicate your ideas in plain language.

This advice may seem basic on the surface, writing in plain language requires precision and concision. And initial attempts at writing are rarely precise or concise. To describe a decision, request, or action in clear, simple terms usually requires careful revision.

How can I revise for clear, plain language?

Use these five revision strategies to improve your word choice.

1. Replace long, redundant phrases with concise terms.

See more examples.

2. Replace buzzwords and jargon with precise terms.

3. Replace stuffy vocabulary with natural expressions.

4. Cut irrelevant information, obvious statements, and awkward phrases. 

5. Get a second opinion.

Have trusted colleagues read your work before you send or publish it. Ask them to mark confusing ideas and unclear language.


Get More Support

Use these Write for Business resources to help you write clearly and effectively.