To me, that means using the language your readers would use when talking about the same subject you are writing to them about.
A case in point is a fundraising letter I got today from a public radio station featuring soft and eclectic rock and pop.
The letter begins:
“Dear Neighbor: I have a feeling you’re a smart media consumer.”
Let me ask you. When you turn on your radio to listen to music, do you think of yourself as a “media consumer”?
Or as someone who likes to listen to music on the radio?
The fundraising copywriter has taken a simple concept and buried it in jargon alien to the reader.
If I were asked to edit this letter, my opening might read:
“Dear Music Lover: Do you ever wish, when you turn on the radio, that they’d play OUR music? You know the kind of music I mean … etc.”
Do you prefer my version or their version — and why?
Or, rewrite it with your own lead.