Of course not. How can you be too clever? Well, if like me you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you might think Dr Sheldon Cooper is just a little bit too clever, but I’m afraid you’d be wrong.
While he may be insanely intelligent, his “cleverness” is surprising lacking.
The kind of “clever” I’m talking about, is that reserved for smarmy game-show hosts, political spin-doctors and ad-men. Those who think they’re misunderstood because of their overpowering genius, rather than because they’re just obscure, ambiguous and make no sense to any reasonable thinking person at all.
These are the same guys who come up with nonsensical jargon such as knowledge process outsourcing, or thought showers (huh?).
What ever happened to saying what you mean and meaning what you say?
The trouble with being “clever” is if your audience isn’t on the same wavelength, chances are they’ll be left scratching their heads wondering what the hell you’re on about. Fine if you’re a politician trying to introduce a new tax (sorry, “preparatory fiscal realignment”), not so good if you actually need people to know what you’re on about.
Which Brings Us To The Kitchen Sink
I love my kitchen – and I’m well acquainted with its sink… it’s right next to my beloved, well-used dishwasher. I must admit, however, I was somewhat confused when I found it in my WordPress toolbar!
Of course, being the adventurous little poppet I am, I clicked it anyway and after a raft of new buttons were revealed, had one of those “a-ha” moments Oprah is always on about.
Several days after my amazing discovery, I was chatting online to a fellow business owner about the layout of her website copy and suggested she consider full justification for her text, rather than centred alignment. Her response was she didn’t have those options on her site.
A small bell rang in the back of my head, as I remembered all the glorious formatting options revealed after hitting the “kitchen sink” button in WordPress. I immediately asked her to check her toolbar and try clicking this button if she had it. She did – but hadn’t clicked on it because she didn’t understand what it would be for and was afraid of doing something she might regret.
Keeping It Simple
The above example perfectly illustrates how being “clever” can go tragically wrong. Sure, I had a moment of wry amusement after “everything but the kitchen sink” was revealed on my tool bar, but honestly, “additional formatting” would have been a perfectly appropriate and far more suitable name for this button.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s hundreds – maybe thousands – of people who have avoided clicking on the “kitchen sink” button because they don’t understand what it’s for.
It would certainly explain a helluva lot of website designs!!
So the next time you’re tempted to come up with some clever, witty way to convey your message, promise me you’ll stop and think about this: is it more important to come up with a concept that’s “clever”, or one that’s easily understood?
Got questions about this post or other business communication matters? Feel free to ask them on my Facebook page where I’ll answer them for you.