Small business owners communicate with different types of people every day, using various media for numerous purposes.
Whether it is suppliers, customers, funders or employees the small business owner is interacting with, communicating clearly is essential to avoid misunderstandings that could sour relationships.
Whilst small business owners may take it for granted that their websites, contracts, invoices, business plans, e-mails, and verbal instructions are easy to understand, their target audiences may not agree. Common pitfalls include the (over) use of business jargon and technical terms, vague metaphors and similes, unnecessarily complex vocabulary, and the inclusion of too much detail.
Yes, small business owners may find themselves in situations where they need to demonstrate their grasp of technical, financial, legal and other concepts to sophisticated audiences. Yes, small business owners may want to impress customers, or to appear to be in touch with popular culture. Regardless of how well-intentioned the small business owner is, none of that matters if the message is misinterpreted or met with complete incomprehension. Worse, the small business owner may be perceived as pompous or detached from reality for choosing to use inaccessible language.
Keeping it simple and communicating in plain English makes life easier for small business owners and the people around them. So what is plain English? What follows is a slightly modified version of what is stated in the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s ‘Plain English Handbook’ endorsed by Warren Buffet. Plain English means analyzing and deciding what information is needed to make informed decisions before words, sentences, or paragraphs are considered.
Plain English uses words economically and at a level, the audience can understand. Its sentence structure is tight. Its tone is welcoming and direct. The handbook also points out that plain English does not mean omitting content in its entirety and completely avoiding certain topics or subjects. Rather, it is about distilling key ideas and concepts and communicating them simply and concisely.
Communicating in plain English does not mean the small business owner is unintelligent or uneducated or unworldly.
Instead, it shows that the small business owner is interested in meaningful interactions and getting things done. If plain English is good enough for billionaire Warren Buffet, maybe it is worth a try by the humble small business owner?