“Basic English” simply means using words that people will understand,” says business humorist Todd Hunt. On recent flights, Hunt appreciated the fact that both Delta Airlines and American Airlines warned passengers of the possibility of “rough air” or “unexpected bumps” rather than talking about “turbulence”.
Hunt was used to hearing the request: “Please discontinue the use of portable electronics”, but thinks United Airlines takes the prize for making things clear: “Please turn off your cell phones, laptops, and anything else that has an on-off switch”.
When Todd Hunt talks about “basic English”, he simply means using words understandable to the majority of readers, but there is an actual language called Basic English, which was created by linguist Charles Ogden in 1930 as an international auxiliary language, and as an aid for teaching English as a second language. What survives today of Ogden’s Basic English is the basic 850-word list used as the beginner’s vocabulary of the English language taught worldwide.
When it comes to blogging for business, keeping it basic means using understandable, clear language. “Unless you provide a very specialized service aimed only at professionals, avoid industry jargon and use easily understandable, clear language in your blog,” advises the Chamber of Commerce’s Personal Branding Blog. “Never use a long, complex word when a short, simple one will do, and never say in 15 words what could be said in five.”
“People in different companies and industries often don’t speak the same language,” observes one of my favorite wordsmiths, Milo O. Frank (How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less).
My own observation, based on working with different industries doing corporate blogging training, is that lack of clarity between writer and reader is worse with business-to-consumer corporate blog writing. But even among suppliers, consultants, and retailers within a single industry, there’s no question that the clearer the words are to all the parties, the easier it becomes for transactions (obviously one of the end goals of marketing blogs) to happen.
Business blogs are all about getting found, then getting the point across.
When it comes to choosing language for flight attendant greetings or for business blogs, it’s best to keep the English basic!