Jargon mumble synergy!

How is it that companies that spend millions on product development seem incapable of hiring someone who can write clear, concise product descriptions?

Been working on a project for the past week that involves churning through tons of product descriptions from various companies. I can say with authority that the products, if they are selling well, are selling despite the marketing materials. This also goes for press releases. Just in case any of the folks who are writing this copy happen to read this site, here are a few tips:

  • Inverted-pyramid style: It’s not just for journalists! Most important facts first, etc. What is it? What does it do? Why do I want it?
  • Assume that the press will read your marketing materials, and they may not want to wade through 2,000 words just to figure out the key features of your product.
  • Notice how the bullets in this post make each point stand out clearly? Good, now adopt that technique on your websites. Thanks.
  • Don’t just replicate the text on your website in a PDF download. If I’m a customer, or a journalist, and I read your skimpy website and resort to downloading a PDF for more information, I’m annoyed as all hell when the PDF is exactly the same as what I just read. (It is okay to provide a PDF with the same copy, so long as it is clearly indicated.)
  • Hire someone who speaks the English language in addition to whatever jargon your industry uses. Seriously. De-jargonize your marketing copy for the sake of anyone who might not speak your particular dialect of jargon. I just noticed that the word “jargon” starts to look a bit weird when you use it a lot… jargon, jargon, jargon…
  • Is it really necessary for your product name to be in ALL CAPS? I didn’t think so. StudlyCaps are okay, but only in limited use.
  • While we’re on the topic: Each product should have a distinct name, and a model number. Don’t combine them, it makes for very poor copy. PZBX1123 is not a memorable name for a product. “Zeus,” “VoiceMax,” “Spectre” or “Xeon” are all memorable names, and work just fine with a trailing product number. Much better with a completely forgettable string of seemingly random numbers and letters.
  • Also, it’s really not necessary to include your company’s name in each product name — and let’s have a two-word limit on product names, okay? The product description should follow the product name, not be the product name.
  • Do your products have prices? Then display them proudly.
  • State the nature of the product in ten words or less at the very beginning of any product description. Really.

There’s more, but I’ll save it for another time. In the meanwhile, if your website/product catalog is suffering from too much jargon, too little clarity, I’m always available at reasonable rates to help clean it up.

(This is a post rescued from the /dev/null by the magic of Archive.org and copy & paste.)

Editor, writer, communications expert, former community manager, open source enthusiast, music nut, and cat guy. Not necessarily in that order.

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