Do you know what ERP software is?
If you do, bear with me for a second. If you don’t, let me explain it in two sentences: Specifically, ERP software is software that can run your entire business, from accounting to inventory to shipping, and tie it all together. It can be customized to fit your business, and it can be expanded to grow with you.
Is that clear? Do you now have a basic idea what ERP software is?
Here’s the very first line taken from an ERP maker’s site to describe their ERP software:
“Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a scalable re-engineering enterprise solution that utilizes multiple cutting-edge business computing paradigms to fully integrate IT processes by unilaterally interfacing with and interconnecting a company’s divisions”.
Really – I’ve worked extensively with ERP software, and *I* didn’t understand that until I read it three times. I’ve also spent many years amongst business and computer people, and never once has someone uttered the word “paradigms”.
People don’t talk like that. So why write like that? Listen, there are times when you can and should use “insider terms” (commonly called “Jargon”). If you are writing for NASA engineers, it’s ok to use highly technical terms and huge paragraphs. But 99% of the time, you are writing for the general public.
And the general public wants their writing short and sweet. Without insider jargon.
But this stuff doesn’t just happen with software and tech companies. Here’s a company describing a toaster in an online and print catalog:
Extra-long, extra-wide slots
Digital shade control
Warm and frozen function button
Self-centering bread racks
Ok, I know what the slots are. But why do the “bread racks” need to be “self-centering”? I’ve owned several toasters of varying quality in my life, and never knew the “bread racks” even needed to be “centered”. Did you? But ok, fine, we’ll go with it. It’s probably a good thing to have.
But what is a “shade control”? Is that the toast darkness control? I would assume so. But wait – for the model two toasters after this one, they say it has a “darkness control”, so that leaves me a bit in the dark as to what a “shade control” is. Are they two different things? It would appear so.
Warm and Frozen function button… function?… That’s an odd word for a toaster. Does it mean I press it when I put something frozen in? I called the company and asked – I was told it’s a button for frozen bread. So where does “warm” come in? How about simply saying “frozen bread button”? And let’s stay away from the word “function” – it’s an awful word to use in describing a toaster.
I’ll bet the person who wrote the catalog knows what all that stuff is. But they aren’t buying the toaster (they probably get one for free at Christmas). They are trying to get ME to buy the toaster. Well, they aren’t going to do it confusing me like that.
Your business writing doesn’t need to win awards, nor must it please English professors. The goal of most business writing is simple – to SELL. To sell your product, your ideas, whatever it is you are trying to get across. Your customers should read your words and understand exactly what you are trying to say. Because understanding what you intended is the first step to taking action.