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Bullshit sensitivity

by | Oct 10, 2018 | Communications, Content, Copywriting, Jargon, Language | 0 comments

I’ve seen leveraging twice this morning in a trade journal, a UK media related journal. Leverage is in the bullshit list no? It’s in mine. It doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t read right. Why utilise it when you could use a ton of other words? See what I did there. Utilise is another. Bleugh. Using big words doesn’t make you sound clever, it just turns people off. And you want them turned on. You want then tuned in and listening, and able to understand your product/service/offering/story.

Potential buyers are highly unlikely to ask if they don’t understand what you are saying, they’ll just move on. So I can’t stress enough how important it is to simplify your language.

Baffled people aren’t buyers and bullshit baffles people. Ooh that’s quite profound, or is it pseudo-profound? Let’s see what a niche Swedish study says…

Yes, there really is a niche Swedish study looking at genuinely profound sentences and pseudo-profound bullshit sentences to determine bullshit-sensitivity. Yes, bullshit sensitivity is a thing. It’s the ability to distinguish between the two.

This Swedish study was specifically looking at the relationship between a person’s ability to detect bullshit from profound, and the link between that and how likely they would then be to donate to charity or volunteer. The bullshit list includes such corkers as
Your movement transforms universal observations
And
The whole silence infinite phenomena
And in the genuinely profound list
Your teacher can open the door, but you have to step in
And
The person who never made a mistake never tried something new

Place your bets on if they got all the examples from either LinkedIn or any of the insertdayMotivation # on Twitter.

The actual results of the study*, i.e. the likelihood of volunteering or donating is not of interest to me, obviously. I’m just fascinated that people study this stuff and it’s a hook to allow me to talk about business bollocks and plain English. Though the study did conclude “the results also show that future research on the psychology of bullshit needs to consider not just people’s receptivity to bullshit per se, but that it should situate bullshit-receptivity in the context of people’s ability to distinguish bullshit from the actually profound.” And that I am interested in.

So, business bollocks, it’s just that and it needs to stop. There is no need to use jargon or bamboozle people in copy. Simple sells. Don’t overcomplicate things. People need to understand what they are buying into. I’m firmly in the plain English camp. Straight talking copy, easy to understand and digest copy. How many times have you read an article, blog, web page, flyer, annual report and exclaimed “huh?”? Huh no more.

The Plain English Campaign website is great resource and the deadline for their annual awards is fast approaching. If you’ve come across any great copy or clangers then check it out. Categories include the Foot in Mouth award (for baffling quotes by public figures) and Golden Bull awards (for the worst examples of written tripe).

If you need to cut some bull from your business copy give me a shout.

* Bullshit-sensitivity predicts prosocial behavior

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