Here’s Why Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Richard Branson Said You Should Never ‘Sound Too Smart’

What do Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson all have in common? (No, it’s not just their fame or fortune.) They all use “third-grade language” to explain their ideas. Why? Because the only way your words will make an impression is if everyone understands them.

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But it’s not easy making things simple, especially when your first thought is that you need to “sound smart” so people will respect your authority. However, simpler is always better, and here are a few ways Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson have ensured their companies follow this rule.

Apple only uses short sentences

Steve Jobs made a point of making all of his presentations simply worded and easy to process. Sentences were short and there was no jargon in sight.

Think back to Apple’s 1997 Think Different campaign. It began with: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes.” Then it ended with: “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Inspiring, right? It certainly was back in ’97, and the simplicity of the message is a clear reason why. Make sure any important messages you’re sending out use short and simple sentences too.

Elon Musk tells workers to cut out “nonsense words”

Apple isn’t the only one who strongly believes in the power of simplicity. Elon Musk sent a company-wide email to his Tesla employees, where he told them to cut the jargon and “nonsense words” when describing the company’s software and processes. He wrote, “We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.”

In the same way, people shouldn’t have to Google every other word to fully understand your ideas either. If you’re an entrepreneur with a website, check your pages for any industry-specific words that the average person may not understand. It’ll make a huge difference.

Richard Branson says not to “be the fool”

On his Twitter, Branson writes, “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.”

Since Branson struggled with dyslexia growing up, he’s always seen the need for communications to be as streamlined as possible. At Virgin, he ensures this is the norm among his employees, marketing, and even when building products.

In another blog post about building affordable rockets, Branson adds, “Simplicity is a great way to build something that works well without costing too much.”

What this means for you

Explaining something simply is much harder to do than it sounds and can take some getting used to.

Sometimes it can feel like trying to explain what music sounds like or the taste of snow. But it can be done, and it’ll be worth it when you realize that your words left an impact because everyone understood them perfectly.

So whenever you’re about to give your next pitch or tell a friend what your latest big idea is all about, remember these words by Steve Jobs:

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

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