The obvious answer is – if you want to mislead. A fascinating study published in the US Journal of Language and Social Psychology suggests that when scientists’ research turns out to be fraudulent, the language is often a giveaway.
Two researchers at Stanford University, California, studied more than 250 scientific papers that had been found to be using fraudulent data. They then compared the style of writing with that used in the same number of papers that were sound. They found that:
"fraudulent papers were written with significantly higher levels of linguistic obfuscation, including lower readability and higher rates of jargon."
In business, unclear writing is also revealing. It suggests a lack of confidence. Studies of the language used in annual reports, including one we at Clarity carried out some years ago, show that companies that are successful tend to write annual reports that are shorter and clearer than those not doing so well.
Of course, a lot of unclear writing is not meant to mislead or cover up. It’s just that the writer hasn’t put in the work needed to make it clear. And it is hard work. But if you don’t do it, there may be a price to pay: your reputation may suffer. Readers may lose confidence in you and your organisation.
There’s more on this in an article called Research shows connection between content clarity and business credibility at Precision Content.