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Author Topic: Plain English for corporate executives and business leaders  (Read 2369 times)
Gerry T. Galacio
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« on: December 26, 2015, 05:02:18 PM »

Note: For free seminar-workshops on Plain English, see the information below in Reply #5 or surf to http://josecarilloforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=6573.msg12564#msg12564

(1) "Want to Be a Great Communicator? Use Plain English" from CBS News Money Watch, 2010 by Steve Tobak at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/want-to-be-a-great-communicator-use-plain-english/

"And if you work with and listen to enough successful executives and other business leaders, you'll find that, with rare exception, they use plain English and cut to the chase. That means no jargon, no beating around the bush, and no flowery or big words."

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive and author of  "Real Leaders Don't Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur."

Another article by Tobak: "Why Can’t Silicon Valley Use Plain English?" at http://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/2015/05/29/why-cant-silicon-valley-use-plain-english/

"It’s sort of surprising how many of the tech elite can’t communicate with regular folk outside the Silicon Valley bubble. Which is ironic because, now more than ever, they have our attention. People really are into this stuff in a big way but they shouldn’t need a decoder ring to interpret what they’re hearing."

(2) "Do you make your English teacher cringe?" by Michelle Cubas, founder of Positive Potentials, an advanced enterprise coaching, training, consulting and publishing company, at  http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2011/04/11/do-you-make-your-english-teacher-cringe/

"Remember when you thought using big words would make you sound smarter or you would have a verbal duel with someone to upstage that person? Those days of bloated language are finished.

"Today’s business standard is plain English. It means direct communication and emphasizes clarity and brevity, not industry jargon or technical language. This style is the standard for people writing for a general audience, including white papers, speeches, manuals and instructions, presentations and spoken language."

(3) "Cut the drivel – plain English for internal communications" at https://www.newsweaver.com/cut-drivel-plain-english-internal-communications/

"Putting content on your site or intranet usually means a box has been ticked, and a job done. But is that content going to be read and understood or even result in action being taken? If the language used for much of the content is, well, dull and uninspiring, what happens? Nothing. If people don’t read it in the first place, that’s a fail. If they do try to read it and can’t understand it, that’s also a fail."

(4) "Using plain English to share ideas" at http://humanergy.com/coherent-interorganizational-communication-or-using-plain-english-to-share-ideas/

"Do you ever feel like you’re in a strange world where everyone speaks a confusing language? Just attend a meeting at an organization near you. Between the industry-specific jargon and general office-speak, clarity of communication is nearly extinct. Not at Molson Coors, where 'core competencies' are now referred to as 'things we do well,' according to a recent blog posted by Miri Zena McDonald on SmartBlog on Workforce. The CEO of Molson Coors isn’t tossing around 10-pound reports anymore either, preferring a conversational video. Let’s all drink to that! (In moderation, of course.)

"The real problem here is that using the buzz word of the hour is bad communication strategy. You risk the listener not understanding you at all or misconstruing your message. How can you avoid the trap of using jargon or fuzzy terminology?"

(5) "7 communication tips for millennial leaders" by Lindsey Pollak at http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2014/02/17/7-communication-tips-for-millennial-leaders/

"Communication is not about asserting yourself; it’s about getting your message across."

"In the academic environments where you’ve spent most of your lives, you’ve learned to write long sentences using flowery, complicated language because that’s what your teachers rewarded and it helped you hit the mandatory word counts on assignments (or maybe that was just me …). Now that you’re in the business world, you need to learn to do the exact opposite.

"I hear so many employers and workers from other generations complain about millennials writing really long e-mails with too much detail. Whether you’re writing an e-mail, a report or some other business document, you should make every effort to be concise and use short sentences and bullet points to convey your message. My mantra: When in doubt, edit it out!"

(6) "Singapore firms are turning to plain English" at http://www.prweek.com/article/1299909/spore-firms-turning-plain-english

"As the demand for transparency grows, banks and financial institutions in Singapore abandon the practice of using jargon and twisted English phrases."

(7) Prudential President and CEO Lori Fouche advocates Plain English

From "The 3 words that guide Prudential's CEO — Business Management Daily" at http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/43979/the-3-words-that-guide-prudentials-ceo

"Lori Fouche is one of the most powerful women in business. The 47-year-old credits her success in part to her ability to describe her leadership style succinctly.

"Effective leaders can summarize their philosophy 'in one or two sentences,' she says. That’s better than overcomplicating their approach.

"She urges leaders to communicate their leadership strategy in plain English to their staff. Ideally, employees should be able to understand their leader’s style right away—without guessing what the leader expects."


From http://www.blackenterprise.com/event/lori-dickerson-fouche-prudential-financial/

"Lori Dickerson Fouché is president and chief operating officer of Group Insurance at Prudential Financial, Inc. The 20-year industry veteran is responsible for the life, disability and voluntary product offerings, sales and account management, and service delivery and marketing.

"Prior to this appointment, Fouché served as president and CEO of Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Before joining Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, Fouché worked for Chubb for several years in various roles, rising to the rank of senior vice president in Chubb Specialty Insurance."

(9) "CEOs want information, not just words: so ... write smart, simple and short." by Richard Neff

From http://www.thefreelibrary.com/CEOs+want+information,+not+just+words%3A+so+...+write+smart,+simple+and...-a019537768

"Senior managers everywhere today view 'Time Management' as a key strategic issue. Yet in many companies, the writing process is a major time-waster that has gone unnoticed. Some large corporations spend 20 to 40 percent of their time just in writing. This writing process should be a tool for productivity, but is often a blockage: Writers waste too much time producing texts that waste even more time for readers."

Neff's article discusses the Plain English initiatives of (a) Chairman Martin Kallen of Monsanto Europe, (b) Malcolm Baldrige, former CEO of Scovill, Inc., in Waterbury, Conn., and U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Reagan, and (c) NatWest chairman, Lord Alexander of Weedon.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2016, 05:16:56 AM by Gerry T. Galacio » Logged
Gerry T. Galacio
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2016, 05:01:14 PM »

By William Zinsser from his bestselling book "On Writing Well":

"Still, plain talk will not be easily achieved in corporate America. Too much vanity is on the line. Managers at every level are prisoners of the notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind. Actually a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking; a muddled style reflects a muddled thinker or a person too arrogant, or too dumb, or too lazy to organize his thoughts." (Page 175)

"That's the kind of plain talk a parent wants. It's also what stockholders want from their corporation, what customers want from their bank, what the widow wants from the agency that's handling her social security. There is a deep yearning for human contact and a resentment of bombast. Recently I got a 'Dear Customer' letter from the company that supplies my computer needs. It began: 'Effective March 30 we will be migrating our end user order entry and supplies referral processing to a new telemarketing center.' I finally figured out that they had a new 800 number and that the end user was me. Any organization that won't take the trouble to be both clear and personal in its writing will lose friends, customers and money. Let me put it another way for business executives: a shortfall will be experienced in anticipated profitability." (Pages 173, 174)
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 08:23:22 AM by Gerry T. Galacio » Logged
Gerry T. Galacio
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2016, 05:19:29 PM »

(1) "Why You Should Do Away with Jargon" at https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140319101448-204068115-why-you-should-do-away-with-jargon

Excerpt:

"Some people love speaking in jargon, using fancy words and turning everything into acronyms. Personally, I find this simply slows things down, confuses people and causes them to lose interest. It’s far better to use a simple term and commonplace words that everyone will understand, rather than showing off and annoying your audience.

"In some industries, technical terms are everywhere – especially in the financial sector. As somebody who didn’t understand the difference between net and gross for many years, despite running several billion dollar companies, I have always preferred when financial issues are explained clearly."

(2) "What not to write in a mission statement" at http://www.brw.com.au/p/entrepreneurs/richard_branson_what_not_to_write_4j9ZNNzAT9ixnjhy6rqtuO

Excerpts:

"Most mission statements are full of blah truisms and are anything but inspirational."

"Brevity is certainly key, so try using Twitter’s 140-character template when you’re drafting your inspirational message."
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 08:24:46 AM by Gerry T. Galacio » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2016, 07:52:25 AM »

(1) From "Three ways to write like Warren Buffett" by Ian Harris, Management Today ( February 2015) at http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/news/1334430/three-ways-write-warren-buffett/

"Senior leaders often tell me that they have to use long words and business jargon - it’s expected of them.

"But what’s interesting is if you study Warren Buffett’s writing over 50 years, there’s a correlation between success and simplicity. Basically, the richer he becomes the simpler his writing."

"How to Write Like Warren Buffett" by Ian Harris

(a) Free book at http://internal-communication.com/buffett

(b) YouTube video at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ1U4hEPAxI

(2) Buffett endorsed the use of Plain English in the preface to the US Securities and Exchange Commission's "Plain English Handbook: How to create clear disclosure documents " (1998). He wrote:

“Write with a specific person in mind. When writing Berkshire Hathaway's annual report, I pretend that I'm talking to my sisters. I have no trouble picturing them: Though highly intelligent, they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed. To succeed, I don't need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform.”

The US SEC chairman at that time, Arthur Levitt, asked Buffett to rewrite the following text into Plain English:

“Maturity and duration management decisions are made in the context of the average maturity orientation for each Fund, as set forth in the Prospectus. The maturity structure of each Portfolio is adjusted in anticipation of cyclical interest rate changes. Such adjustments are not made in an effort to capture short-term, day-to-day movements in the market, but instead are implemented in anticipation of longer term, secular shifts in the levels of interest rates (i.e., shifts transcending and/or not inherent to the business cycle).”

Buffett’s Plain English revision went like this:

“We will try to profit by correctly predicting future interest rates. When we have no strong opinion, we will generally hold intermediate-term bonds. But when we expect a major and sustained increase in rates, we will concentrate on short-term issues. And, conversely, if we expect a major shift to lower rates, we will buy long bonds. We will focus on the big picture and won’t make moves based on short-term considerations.

Can you see how much more reader-friendly Buffett’s revision is? If you want more technical information, here are the readability stats provided by MS Word:

Original text: 27.6 words per sentence in 3 sentences; Passive sentences 100%; Flesch Reading Ease 19.7; Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 12.0

Buffett’s Plain English revision: 14.2 words per sentence in 5 sentences; Passive sentences 0%; Flesch Reading Ease 55.3; Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 9.0
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 08:21:57 AM by Gerry T. Galacio » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2016, 08:10:58 AM »

(1) From Asian Development Bank publication "Using Plain English" at http://www.adb.org/publications/using-plain-english

"Many people write too much, bureaucratically, and obscurely. Using plain English will save time in writing, make writing far easier, and improve understanding."

(2) “How Plain English Works for Business: Twelve Case Studies” by the Office of Consumer Affairs, US Department of Commerce (March 1984) at http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED277033.pdf

Some of the companies cited in this study are Citibank, N. A., Home Owners Warranty Corporation, and J. C. Penny Company. The study said that using plain English improved their corporate image and competitive position, as well as streamlined their procedures, eliminated unnecessary forms, and reduced customer complaints.

(3) "The business case for plain English communication" from http://www.human-communications.com/blog/business-writing-trends-continued-spread-plain-english

" ... OCBC Bank in Singapore saw sales revenue from its wealth-management products grow after it introduced clear and easy-to-understand marketing brochures."

(4) "Swap the management-speak for plain English" (Financial Times) by Simon Caulkin (May 2011)  at http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/40006faa-701c-11e0-bea7-00144feabdc0.html

"Why is the language of management so contorted? Why does so much of it seem to be about concealing meaning, rather than revealing it?"

"Why is straight talk in business so difficult? Plain words and simple messages are only possible when organisations have their goals, values and behaviour in register. Such companies are comfortable with themselves, their relationship with their customers and their role in society."

(5) "Investment Association: Industry must speak in plain English" from https://www.fundstrategy.co.uk/investment-association-industry-must-speak-in-plain-english/

"The FCA is calling for smarter consumer communications, encouraging the industry to write 'for the consumer first and then ensure communications are compliant, rather than the other way round'. This view makes sense and consultants, such as Oxera, have made the point that disclosure is academic if it is not read and understood by the customer.

"With millions more people coming into contact with investment managers, due to the ongoing pension changes, it’s crucial that the industry is able to speak in plain English. Improvements are certainly happening – with due care and attention."
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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2016, 08:37:56 AM »

1. "Clear and concise English for effective legal writing” (4 hours; for HR officers and staff;  business owners and their employees; MBA and other graduate school students; NGOs; LGUs; college students taking Business Administration, Law, Mass Communications, Public Administration, Education; Student Councils; academic organizations; fraternities; sororities; or any interested group; surf to my series on effective legal writing at http://famli.blogspot.com/p/bar-exams-mcq.html)

2. “Plain English, Plain Language, or Plain Writing: overview, guidelines, before and after examples” (4 hours; for any interested group; surf to http://famli.blogspot.com/2011/04/what-is-plain-english-plain-language-or.html)

Seminars are for Metro Manila only. Your group must provide the venue, LCD projector, sound system, etc.

For more information or to schedule a seminar, please contact Gerry T. Galacio at gtgalacio@yahoo.com or mobile 0927-798-3138
« Last Edit: January 12, 2016, 07:10:44 AM by Gerry T. Galacio » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2016, 09:48:48 PM »

From The Straits Times (2009) at http://news.asiaone.com/News/Education/Story/A1Story20090227-125024.html

"The written English we want is clean, clear prose - not elegant, not stylish, just clean, clear prose. It means simplifying, polishing and tightening.

"Remember: That which is written without much effort is seldom read with much pleasure. The more the pleasure, you can assume, as a rule of thumb, the greater the effort.

"When you send me or your minister a minute or a memo - or a draft that has to be published like the President's Address - do not try to impress by using big words; impress by the clarity of your ideas."
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2016, 09:55:03 PM »

"To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent looking for the essential points.

"I ask my colleagues and their staff to see to it that their reports are shorter. The aim should be reports, which set out the main points in a series of short, crisp paragraphs. If a report relies on detailed analysis of some complicated factors, or on statistics, these should be set out in an appendix.

"Let us end such phrases as these: ‘It is also of importance to bear in mind the following consideration’, or ‘Consideration should be given to the possibility of carrying into effect’.

"Most of these woolly phrases are mere padding, which can be left out altogether, or replaced by a single word. Let us not shrink from using the short expressive phrase, even if it if conversational.

"Reports drawn up on the lines I propose may first seem rough as compared with the flat surface of officialese jargon. But the saving in time will be great, while the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking."
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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2016, 11:57:34 AM »

(1)  From "Language Use and Personality during Crises: Analysis of Mayor Rudolph Guiliani's Press Conferences" by James Pennebaker and Thomas Lay, University of Texas at Austin, available at http://personal.stevens.edu/~rchen/readings/speech.pdf

"Consistent with his social and identity change, Giuliani demonstrated striking changes in the way he thought and expressed himself. Overall, compared to his first four years as mayor, he was seen as speaking in a more straightforward manner, with increases in markers of cognitive complexity. In his first 4 years as mayor, he tended to use big words, was overly concrete (as indicated by his high use of articles), and had overly complex sentences (based on his high use of prepositions). Beginning in mid-1999 and accelerating markedly during his crisis periods, his words became simpler and his language became more personal."

(2) From "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly" by Daniel M. Oppenheimer (Princeton University), 20 Appl. Cognitive Psychol. 139, 139, 2006, available at http://www.ucd.ie/artspgs/semantics/ConsequencesErudite.pdf

"... leaders facing crucial decisions might use more complex vocabulary and end up undermining others’ confidence in their leadership ability."

Note: In his study of Stanford University undergraduates, Oppenheimer found a majority “admitted that they had made their writing more complex in order to appear smarter.”
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2016, 05:07:23 AM »

From http://callforclarity.com/

The "Call For Clarity Conference" is a simplicity symposium organized by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn, pioneers of bringing simplicity to business and government. It's a conference for experts and advocates serious about conquering the crisis of complexity to improve business and society.

Besides Siegel and Etzkorn, other conference speakers include Simon Collinson, Dean of Birmingham Business School, and John Thiel, Head of Merrill Lynch.

"(The conference) showcases the work of nine unique Simplification Innovators. They were chosen from hundreds of entries and dozens of disciplines. They’re accomplishing unpredictable, unheard of things to overcome complexity in finance, healthcare, criminal justice and more.

"Their lessons can improve your business, your health, your finances and society in general. You’ll walk away from this one-of-a-kind conference with a new perspective and solid insights, fully motivated to address and overcome the crisis of complexity."

From Siegel and Etzkorn's article "Simple: Less Is More" (Saturday Evening Post, Nov-Dec 2013 at http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2013/10/30/in-the-magazine/features/simple.html)

“Simplicity works-in business, in government, in life. People can and should demand it. We need a call to action: the spark for a movement toward reduction of societal, governmental, and corporate complexity.”

“Principles of simplicity apply to every interaction, whether printed, electronic, verbal, or visual. It doesn't matter whether it is a contract, an instruction, a touchscreen, or a phone tree. Products of all types-appliances, vehicles, medicines, foods-and services whether provided by a hotel, a hospital, or an online retailer can benefit from simplicity.”

From Siegel+Gale "A Clarion Call for Transparency" (2009) at http://www.siegelgale.com/a-clarion-call-for-simplicity/

Eighty-four percent of respondents are "…more likely to trust a company that uses jargon-free, plain English in its communications."

Notes:

(1) Conference founder Alan Siegel is CEO of Siegelvision, a New York City-based consulting firm that helps Fortune companies, nonprofit institutions and government agencies achieve clarity of purpose, expression and experience. Siegelvision has worked with some of the nation's premier organizations, including National Geographic, NPR, Univision, AeroVironment, United Technologies, College Board, New York University, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Urban Institute, NYU Langone Medical Center, Dayco, Canada Revenue Agency and Cornell College of Engineering.)

(2) Siegel's TED 2010 talk "Let's simplify legal jargon!" at http://www.ted.com/talks/alan_siegel_let_s_simplify_legal_jargon?language=en

"Simplicity is not simple-minded or simplistic. Intuitive structure and organization, short sentences, active verbs, concrete examples, and accessible design can make complex business, legal, and government documents comprehensible and accessible."

(3) From Siegel+Gale "Simplicity Pays: Global Brand Simplicity Index 2013" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0wARSxljXo

"Simplicity in processes and communications inspires deeper trust and greater loyalty in customers, and clears the way to innovation for employees."

(4) Other resources from Siegel:

Simplified IRS form at http://storage.ted.com/Siegel_IRS_Confusion.pdf

Simplified credit card agreement at http://storage.ted.com/Siegel_Credit_Card_Agreement.pdf
« Last Edit: February 12, 2016, 06:46:21 AM by Gerry T. Galacio » Logged
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