For example, somebody wrote this about their company:
System-level competition is a new model for strategy in a globally-linked, information-oriented society. This is a methodology for strategic innovation that blends system design and management, ecosystem-centered business strategy, and applications from complex adaptive systems research.
They could have written this:
We help build strategies that account for your competitors, partners, and processes.
I like the second description better. But does this actually matter? If you write brief, clear text that’s not boring, how will you benefit? Based on my experience helping people to write this way, it helps them in ways they don’t expect. If you write without bullshit, you will:
1 Figure out what you really mean. When you must write short, clear prose, you can’t hide behind jargon and fuzzy thinking. This forces you to think, “What am I actually trying to say?” And once you figure that out, you find your own thinking is clearer. In my experience, developing ideas and writing clearly about them are the same thing.
2 Stand out from the crowd. We’re all surrounded with meaningless blather every day. When a person states clearly and unequivocally what they mean, it shocks people. If you say “Internet-based companies will outcompete you,” people are far more likely to pay attention than if you say “Exogenous challenges for many parts of your business will be caused by disruptive forces from the followers of the new cloud-centric paradigm.” Leaders talk sense. So if you want to be perceived as a leader, talk sense.
3 Find out who your real friends are. Bullshit has only false friends — no one sincerely likes it. Mostly, it just bores people. It’s true that if you express yourself clearly, some people will disagree with you. But others will endorse your ideas and adopt your products. These are the people that Seth Godin calls your tribe. It’s good to know who your true believers are.
4 Give your future self the gift of easier-to-maintain prose. Why write long? Then you need to drag all that prose around, edit it, and update it. Short and clear content requires less care and feeding, whether its an email pitch you can reuse, a marketing piece you update, or one of a series of articles. When you write something to be short and clear, you create content that takes less maintenance.
5 Feel good about yourself. Bullshit saps energy. Writing it makes you feel fuzzy. And why not; you’re using up your energy trying to snow the reader. Creating powerful, candid writing gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
There are risks, of course. If you’re timid and fearful about your ideas, following my advice will reveal your weaknesses. This blog is not for you. But if your ideas are worth people’s time, you’ll be better off writing without bullshit.