The CNECT code helps remind us to apply empathy when creating our communication, to think in terms of, "Hey, what does my audience need?" That's the information that goes in. "How will they best receive it?" That goes to choosing appropriate words, structures, and metaphors—different for a project manager than a marketing executive.
The language we use and how it's written should connect with the target audience. It should show our readers the information they need in a way that is easiest for them to consume.
Join OSPeas Christine Buehler, Chris Fenwick, Felicity Brand, and Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire for this quick, helpful podcast about decoding communication that connects.
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Hi, I'm Carl from OSP and this is Communicate Connect Grow, the OSP podcast. On today's episode, we're talking about avoiding jargon in your writing with the editing code CNECT. If you want to be a more effective writer, a more transparent editor, develop clear strategic thinking or learn from our network of expert friends and colleagues. That's what we're here for. We divide our episodes across three themes Communicate, Connect and Grow. This is a Communicate episode and we're talking about connecting with your audience with our editorial code CNECT. The Connect editing code falls into the style and phrasing phase of the editing process and it's about using words and clear language. In our documentation about this code, it says use language that will connect with your target audience, but avoid jargon that will prevent non-experts from gaining value from your writing.Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
Hi, I'm Jam that is short for Jeffrey Alexander McGuire. I had the great good fortune to start Open Strategy Partners with my business partner in 2017, and here we are recording in 2023, and we're still talking about it. Back in the early days of the company, I was the writer and the editor and Tracy was the structure and ideas and strategy person, and when I would edit her writing, she would get upset and ask why I did something and why I made a change. Over time, we came to the realization that if we had a set of codes that explained what I was doing, that that would help her let go of her precious words and come to an improved overall result. And here we are. The Connect code is similar to many of the other codes we use, but it's got its own flavor. The Connect code is about applying empathy. Our codes talk about being clear. They talk about building trust with the audience and they talk about empathy, which also, of course, goes towards building trust. I need to make sure that an article that I'm editing is pitched in a way that's appropriate for the audience that I'm expecting to read it. If it's for developers, it should be kind of no nonsense and absolutely can be highly technical. If it's for marketers, it probably should be less technical. For example, to connect with the marketer, I need to talk about achieving a marketer's goals. The language and the way it's written should connect with the target audience. There you go. It should show them the information they need in a way that is easiest for them to consume.Christine Buehler:
I'm Christine Bueller. I'm a communications consultant at OSP, where I work on creating blog posts and marketing materials for our often but not always open source and technology clients. The Connect editing code is about using language that lands well with your target audience, but also avoiding jargon that will prevent other people from getting value from your writing.Chris Fenwick:
I'm Chris Fenwick and I do copywriting at OSP and also editing. I mean, I think of it primarily as being about avoiding extremely dry jargon. Actually, it's about making sure that the audience that you're writing for will respond or, like that, the piece will maybe resonate with them in some capacity. So I think it's not just about it's about, in some sense, not being excessively dry and technical, but also coming up with ways that will make them see the relevance of what you're saying to them or that they will respond to more emotionally maybe.Felicity Brand:
G'day. I'm Felicity Brand, I'm a communications consultant at OSP and I write and edit all day long. The CNECT code falls into our style and phrasing phase and it's about using language that will connect with your audience and avoiding jargon that will prevent non-experts from gaining value from your writing. Anne Handley has a very famous book Everybody Writes and she compares jargon to cholesterol. She said there's a good and a bad kind. So I suppose the good kind is it can signal belonging if you're using insider terms that are familiar to your audience, but mostly it's the bad kind, okay. So too often jargon will alienate or exclude a reader who isn't on the inside, and at OSP we write for everyone. So while jargon can be tempting, the risk is too high. This editing code aligns with our pillar of empathy and we have another very similar editing code about language choice, which is term Check out that episode and that's about getting the names of technology correct. But CNECT is about avoiding jargon and using language that everybody can understand. Some examples of jargon Growth, hacked, incentivize, synergize. They're sometimes called non-words. They don't convey a lot of inherent meaning. In my research for this episode, I came across the term smarketing as an example of jargon. I did not understand that term. It means sales and marketing alignment through constant communication, and apparently it was coined over 23 years ago. So apparently I'm 23 years too late. So that's a really good example. Smarketing is a really good example of word choice. That would definitely put up a wall between readers on the inside who understand the term and readers on the outside who don't. Effectively, that's excluding me from this content that I might have been able to gain a lot of value from, but this one word just was kind of like a closed door to me.Carl Richards:
Let's explore how you use this code as an editor.Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
The connect code helps remind us to apply empathy when we're creating our communication, to think in terms of hey, what is my audience need? That's the information that goes in. How will they best receive it? That goes into my choice of words and structures and perhaps the metaphors that I want to use different for a project manager than a marketing executive, for example.Christine Buehler:
Yeah, as an editor, connect or "scenic avoiding so reading jargon can mean a lot of wasted time for an editor. Editors naturally want to be efficient and it's hard to be efficient if you have to pause and look up words multiple times in a single paragraph, let alone an entire piece of writing. It can really slow you down and it's also taking your attention away from your main job, which is editing and shaping a piece of writing.Chris Fenwick:
I think I would probably use it just positively rather than negatively. So if I felt someone had done a good job of making some technical issue resonate, then I would point it out. I think it's a difficult one, because the reasons for which a piece of writing might not connect could also be covered by a number of other codes besides just this one that could also explain why it wasn't doing what you wanted it to. So I think I might have ended up using some other codes instead if I felt like something was wrong with the writing.Felicity Brand:
As an editor, you're more able to spot jargon or language that you don't connect with because you're coming in with fresh eyes. It may be business or industry jargon, or it may be buzzwords. When I'm editing, I'll use this code to flag opportunities for choosing other phrases and I'll typically suggest any that come to mind, or I'll check with the author if that word choice was intentional. And I also use this code a lot for positive feedback so that I can celebrate word choice that the author has made. That's what makes these codes so flexible. You can use them to flag things to check for other opportunities. You can also use them to just celebrate a great word choice and reinforce good writing habits.Carl Richards:
As a writer. How do you approach this code?Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
The most useful part of the connect code when I'm drafting is trying to catch myself not using jargon. Jargon when it goes unexplained will often exclude outgroup people or people who are not experts in a given topic yet will hinder them learning. And it's easier for us to be inclusive if we are avoiding jargon. And now we have a couple of other codes that help us with this. We have one called term, and I think there might be another one that's acronyms, I think where basically the rule is, if we have a piece of jargon that's essential to explaining what we're talking about, then we're going to have to step back and explain it. And is that a parenthetical? Is it a set of links? Is it another linking to another article? But you can't just leave jargon in place and expect that it's going to be as effective as it could be.Christine Buehler:
And, as a writer, when I'm using connect, part of the very beginning of a piece is knowing your target audience, but you don't want it to be so small that it isn't welcoming to anyone else. As a writer generally, you want your work to be shared and you want it to be helpful to as many people as possible. You know, a thick and fast use of jargon is almost like reading a different language or reading an academic paper meant for only other academics, so that prohibits your work from being accessible to other people.Chris Fenwick:
I think the general principle is there in the background, but not necessarily a conscious awareness of the codes. I think when there's really specific things like technical terms to define and so on, then there are more obvious codes and principles that come to mind. I think it's more a case of just like how can you write an introduction that is going to be lively and get somebody's attention and show them the relevance of what you're doing?Felicity Brand:
I have a guilty admission as a writer, I'm not thinking about the CNECT code. I often rely on jargon, and that's because I'm lazy, so jargon is a really useful shorthand when you want to get your ideas out. I'll often use jargon as a placeholder. When I'm writing, I'm getting my thoughts out and then once I feel like I've formulated my argument and I'll do another pass to replace jargon or replace empty cliches with more meaningful or clearer expressions. It's challenging. You can't always see it when you're deep in it. As a writer, you can't always spot your jargon, and that's where you rely on your friendly editor and their fresh eyes.Carl Richards:
For the reader to have a great experience. Here's why this editing code is extremely important.Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
As a reader, I don't want to feel left out If you throw a whole bunch of information at me that I need because I'm trying to make an informed decision about spending my harder time and money. I want to feel like I really understand what's going on, and if you shut me out by expecting a certain amount of knowledge that's inappropriate for my level of experience or my needs from your product or service, it's going to be really, really hard for me to make the decision to try you out.Christine Buehler:
For readers. Connect is important because jargon kind of locks you out, especially if you're newer to a certain subject. It might prohibit you from reading that specific piece of writing, but it also might discourage you from learning more about that topic at all. You might think, well, this topic is clearly too complex. I've changed my mind. I don't want to learn about this anymore. At OSP we definitely don't want that to happen.Chris Fenwick:
All the codes are ultimately aimed at the reader, actually, not just some of the style or phrasing ones, and again I think they're always. Their success is usually there for a reader when they're not visible, like the reader shouldn't be sort of alienated from the piece or reflecting on it too much, it should just be. The point of the code is to guarantee writing that is effective, not writing that necessarily makes you step back from it and wonder, like what's wrong with this?Felicity Brand:
As a reader, I think the author is lazy. If I encounter a lot of jargon or non-words, I'll think maybe this article was just written for SEO purposes and doesn't contain anything meaningful for a human. So I'll quickly leave. You're losing a really great opportunity to connect with your audience if you don't choose words that everyone can understand.Carl Richards:
I hope you, dear listener, have not spotted any jargon in this episode. If so, we sincerely apologize. Next time you start creating a piece of content, sidestep the non-words and try to use real, clear language that everybody understands. Share your examples or questions with us via Twitter, at open underscore strategy, or email hello at openstrategypartnerscom. This was one of the editorial codes we use at OSP. We'll be sharing more of them as we go. If you'd like to learn more in the meantime, come over to openstrategypartnerscom, have a look at our writer enablement workshops, case study offering or get in touch to talk about your strategy or product communication needs. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this podcast, all the P's at OSP. Thanks to our clients who believe in us. Shout out to Patrick Gaumont for our high energy maple syrup flavored theme music and to Mike Snow for additional horn arrangements. Thank you for listening and subscribing about our three themes on the podcast. You'll hear from different members of the OSP team hosting episodes over time. Communicate All things communication we share how we tackle writing, editing, word choices, formats, processes and more. Connect In-depth conversations with interesting, smart people about who they are, what they do and how they approach their life and work as communicators, technologists and leaders. Grow, we cover strategic approaches to understanding and expressing the value of what you do, including tools, templates and practical applications. We also feel strongly about building a mindful, positive, human first culture at work. That's bound to pop up from time to time too. This podcast is us figuring out communication, connection and growing together. Subscribe now on YouTube, apple Podcast or the podcast channel of your choice. Follow us, suggest guests and topics, ask us questions. On social media, we are at open underscore strategy on Twitter Until next time. Thanks for listening to Communicate, Connect. Grow, the OSP podcast.Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
Well, the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone.