"If you cannot explain something in simple terms, you don't understand it."
So said one of the world's most distinguished physicists, the late Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize and a developer of the atomic bomb.
His view was rather harsh, I'd say, given that the professors who concocted the following passage understood exactly what they wrote, yet decided to ooze intellectuality and ended up plunging readers into a quagmire:
"Operationally, teaching effectiveness is measured by assessing levels of agreement between the perceptions of instructors and students on the rated ability of specific instructional behavior attributes. Both individual and organizational based factors may contribute to the variance in levels of agreement between perceptions."
Every industry and profession has a language all its own, a language that all its members understand, but that too often baffles and infuriates the public.
That language? Jargon.
Jargon fogs communication. Writing coaches encourage organizations to eliminate jargon and to substitute conversational language that everyone can understand.
Clear writing does more than make your message understandable; it engenders readers' trust.
Let me know how you would write simply what those professors meant about teaching. After all, if you had asked them to say aloud what they meant, there is no way they would have said it the way they wrote it.
Now, on to the curse of buzzwords in corporate gobbledygook:
"XYZ Co.'s expansion of bandwidth to leverage seamless scalability represents an unprecedented paradigm shift designed to gain efficiency through synergy. This holistic approach accounts for possible interruptions, in which case we can circle back, with limitless transparency, to recalibrate expectations while holding tight to our mission and our value proposition."
About 15 buzzwords clutter that message. Can you picture its writer ever saying those words if speaking to someone face to face?
You may regard all of this as jibber-jabber, but it incentivizes me to drill down and circle back to the life cycle of the buzzing African tsetse fly, said to fly in ever-decreasing inner-concentric circles until it flies up its own rear end.
Twin Cities writing coach Gary Gilson, who teaches journalism at Colorado College, can be reached through writebetterwithgary.com.