Clearing Up Complex Terminology

Complex terminology or production processes are pretty common in business and industry—especially on the B2B side. Think Transoral Incision-less Fundoplication (a type of acid reflux surgery) or Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (a fire suppression system). While terms like these might win points in academic articles or patent applications, they land with a *thud* for most audiences.

The trick to communicating about a complicated concept is to present it in a way that’s relevant and easy to understand.

  • Avoid jargon – Think twice. Do you really need to use a certain term in your article, brochure or communications piece? Whenever possible, opt for a simple descriptor like, “a surgery to relieve acid reflux,” rather than using the full scientific name of the medical procedure.
  • How would you explain it to your mom? – Chances are she’s not a specialist in the same area of expertise as your company, but she still wants to shout from the mountaintop about how great your organization, product or service is, right? Choose a description that would be meaningful to her. If your company adjudicates health claims, for example, say “We help families answer questions about their health insurance.” By coming at it from this level, not only do you simplify a complex idea, you also humanize it.
  • Give it a face – Instead of starting with a step-by-step explanation of your organization’s process or term, start by visualizing the people who benefit from it. Pairing an idea with images helps people grasp the concept in a more personal, accessible way.
  • Bring in timeless appeal and timely relevance – At first glance, this bit of advice might seem like an oxymoron. How can something be timeless and timely? Think of it this way—safety, innovation, peace of mind, the “coolness” factor, those are all timeless qualities that appeal to most audiences. Explain how your product or service relates to qualities like that, then pair it with a hook that makes your concept important among the topics and trends of the day. You’ll have a double shot of interest from customers or news outlets that might otherwise find your terminology difficult to grasp.
  • Know your reading level – Match the sophistication of your communications with the reading level of your desired audience. Again, if it’s a peer-reviewed academic audience, you’ll be able to get away with more complex terminology than if it’s a broad-scale consumer piece. You can test a piece’s readability online at places like:‎ and

At the end of the day, these tips help you leave audiences feeling confident about your company, its products and its services…not confused. 

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