Master Your Message Blog

Politicians Are the Least Persuasive Presenters

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John Kerry, US Secretary of State

OK … I’m generalizing. Surprise me by sending me an example of a wonderful exception!

There was a terrific article out on the CBC online website yesterday by Neil Macdonald. I like his writing generally, but this one shone! It was about the use of gobbledygook.

Here’s how Webster’s Collegiate dictionary defines it: wordy and generally unintelligible jargon.

I have a client who I’m designing a website for, who insists on shoving great big twenty-five cent words into the simple text I write and changes my contractions back to long form (“we’ve” back to “we have.”)

The problem is: We don’t talk like that.

So who is it you think you’re trying to be?

Here’s another definition: language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms; nonsense.

Now, I don’t know where I got the second one, but it an exemplary example of the use of the word in itself. Most people would not know the word “abstruce,” which means “difficult to comprehend.” Why not just say that?

The point is “say what you mean” in simple words that you know your audience is going to understand.

In the article, Neil centres out John Kerry, highly intelligent US Secretary of State, who continues to use gobbledygook just about every time he opens his mouth. For goodness sake, he lost an election because of it!

Here’s a recent example of something John Kerry said after stating that he wanted to make his position “crystal clear”: “The president is desirous of trying to see how we can make our best efforts in order to find a way to facilitate.”

In other words, “the president wants to help.” Then just say that. 

Say what you mean … so that your mom would understand it.

Anyway, here’s the article: a good read if you’re a presenter and care about the language you use.

I certainly could not have said it better than Neil.

When presenting persuasively, just be yourself. When writing in general. Write like you talk.

If you have other great examples of gobbledygook, drop me a line … or just send me a rant … 

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