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Banks should wary of the 10 pound word

I got an email from someone today asking: 'when I wrote RIA, did I mean Rich Internet Applications or Registered Investment Advisors?'

Of course, it is the sloppy journalist who relies on jargon (or acronyms!) in their writing. The easiest way to make sure your readers understand what you are saying, is to say it in plain, simple and straightforward language.

However, it is not just humble hacks that fire off hasty emails. Pity the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) who sent the letter, Personal and Private Banking -- Keeping You Informed, to Chrissie Maher, founder of the Plain English Society. She wrote back, suggesting they rename their customer correspondence Keeping you Confused.

A useful link in the WSJ story is a glossary of financial terms, with helpful 'plain English' translations.


Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 06 October, 2009, 14:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I have every sympathy for Chrissie Maher. The bank could do worse than offer her work even on a freelance basis. However, it is not just this sector that suffers from mumbojumbo jargon that frequently baffles customers.

The key point here is that "sloppy journalists"/"humble hacks" (much as it pains me to write this) and businesses need to keep their end consumer in mind. Fancy language does little to impress those that need to be in the know and it ends up merely irritating.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 09 October, 2009, 11:27Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

In my experience, journalists (whether humble or normal) are the last people to need this good advice; they generally live and breathe it, and are brilliantly intolerant of jargon. This is one of many traits that distinguish journalists from industry/technology analysts, bloggers, self-appointed "subject matter experts" and - by far the worst offenders - evangelical marketing types (EMT's).

Andrew Muir




Elizabeth Lumley

Elizabeth Lumley

Global FinTech Commentator

Girl, Disrupted

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05 Nov 2007



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