B1 writing for B2B content

"A true B1 master tweaks the rules a bit. Or in simple Dutch: only a fool bends no rule."

B1 writing: Jip and Janneke in jargon land

Blog by Steven

You know them. People who can talk about a subject for hours in great detail. Like my uncle Eduard who looks for a victim at every family party to spout his knowledge about marine engines. Irritating? Definitely. This kind of slightly autistic, one-sided communication also occurs regularly in the B2C and B2B world. Jargon we call it. Lawyers and legal experts rule the roost. We already have a solution: B1 communication. Also called Jip and Janneke language. But not everyone applies the rules in a way that is as pleasant to read.

I myself entered the world of simple language in 2007. At the time, the commotion around usurious policies made insurers - in blind panic - want to rewrite all their texts in simple language. For a.s.r., I made a second B1-stroke on its website. There were B1 rules established and all kinds of commercial or non-commercial B1 tests developed. A good thing, as this has put understandable communication on the map in many industries. However, the term Jip and Janneke rightly suggests that not everyone is happy with it. People sometimes feel scandalised. And I understand that when I read some of the texts.

Don't apply B1 blindly

You can roughly divide the world of clear communication into three groups. The 'sink in with your B1', the B1 hardliners and the
golden mean handlers. I myself have gone from the first, through the second, to the last group. From denial, via stringent application to deployment with policy. Why? The best of both worlds. Your message does arrive, but without anyone thinking that the text is actually for someone else. Like his or her 8-year-old son. Who is actually already too old for the adventures of Jip and Janneke.

But also use your common sense

How then? Most existing B1 rules are fine, provided you combine them with a dose of common sense. This is how I approach it:

  • Above all, use words that are common and not too long. But also don't go trying to describe a word like investment insurance if the person reading it has ever taken out such insurance themselves. That looks contrived.

  • Speak the language of the reader. That means you can use jargon if the reader is familiar with it. In fact, the target group expects it from you. The word diesel engine emission does well with marine engine enthusiasts like Uncle Edward.

  • Don't just use but short sentences. Then you risk a text becoming very staccato and no longer reads well. Alternate short and slightly longer sentences so that the text flows back and forth nicely.

  • Do not create blocks of text without a head and tail. Write short paragraphs with one topic and come up with a headline to go with it. A paragraph of about seven lines is about the max.

  • Don't beat around the bush and tell directly what you want to say. This applies to all texts anyway. So don't hide your message, but start with it. And then explain why you are telling that message.

So that you do reach your target audience

In short: a true B1 master tweaks the rules a bit. Or in simple Dutch: only a fool bends no rule. Because if you apply the rules without thinking, you end up with a text without a soul. One that in some cases evokes more aggression than sympathy. With the result that you actually lose connection with your target audience. Just like I have been going around the block for years when I catch sight of my uncle Eduard at family parties. Although I doubt I was ever part of his target group, but that's another story.

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