Keeping jargon out of client correspondence

Written by Alan Gow

Keeping jargon out of client correspondence – FT adviser – view article

I recently subscribed to a newly launched magazine about indie music in the early 1990s.
This was my era and I love that such a mag exists in 2020. It has been a little ray of light in a gloomy year.

The magazine includes interviews with people from bands who never really made it back then, some of whom went on to become movers and shakers behind big names in music today.

This led me into one of those Wikipedia searches where you go off down a rabbit hole, learning all sorts of interesting but largely irrelevant facts, somehow losing several hours in the process.

On my travels through the warren, I stumbled upon the current whereabouts of the bass player from one of my all-time favourite bands.

This led me onto Linkedin. He is now a digital media specialist, but something about his profile really struck me. I had no idea what it said.

Now, granted, if I was looking for a digital media specialist, I would probably get a reasonable understanding of the lingo before I started. But the problem was not the technical terms. It was the language. Let me give you some examples.

This ex-bassist now ‘engages audiences to drive competitive advantage and customer delight’. Excuse me? He is ‘an excellent communicator who is biased for action’. You what?

As an outsourced paraplanning company, we receive a fairly steady stream of enquiries from advice companies looking for help.

When it comes to suitability reports, some businesses have their own templates and they ask if we would be happy to work with them. The answer to that question depends on three things:

  • Do I understand the flow? (does it tell a story?)
  • Is it clearly laid out? (good use of headings)
  • Can I read it without losing the will to live?

There are many different ways to structure a report and there is not one that is ‘right’. But I think there are quite a lot that are written with the following parties in mind, in this order: compliance department, regulator, adviser, client. Sorry, but in my book, the client comes first.

It can be easy to stop thinking about the words that we get so used to using day-to-day. There is a tendency in businesses to slip into ‘office speak’, similar to the meaningless jargon in my former idol’s Linkedin profile.

It is the norm, and we are too busy with the day job to give it much thought. But it is really important that we take the time to think about how we communicate with clients. Get to the point, keep it readable and, obviously, avoid jargon wherever possible.