Inovalon’s impenetrable Web description and how to fix it

It’s not that hard. People who visit your Web site want to know what you do. If you can’t describe your company simply in a few sentences, you’re screwed. Which is why I was astounded when a visitor to this blog suggested I look at the site for Inovalon.

This is where clarity and brevity rule. Somebody at Inovalon didn’t get the memo. Here’s a screen shot of their Who We Are page in which I’ve marked the puffed-up, imprecise adjectives in green, the jargon in purple, the filler in grey, and the passive voice in yellow:

InovalonThat’s what impenetrable copy looks like. What it feels like is slogging through a bog. You’re basically daring the reader to figure it out what you do. And it’s a disaster from a search standpoint — even if the buzzwords draw potential customers in, once they reach this, they’ll give up.

Inovalon’s financial results are great, it claims a nearly 100% renewal rate, and it just went public. Clearly the company has little in the way of competitors. Once those competitors arrive, somebody in marketing is going to have to do better.

If you’re writing something like this, keep a few things in mind.

1 Puffed-up, imprecise adjectives backfire; they’re not believable. Are you buying any of these adjectives? Or would leaving them out actually make this more credible? The moment a writer unironically types the word “seamless,” her boss should fire her.

leading technology company . . . meaningful insights . . .  sophisticated analytics . . . deep subject-matter expertise . . . seamless capability . . . powerful solution suite that drives high-value impact.

2 Jargon puts off everybody but experts (and can baffle even those experts). Jargon can be precise and brief, but it basically says “if you can’t figure this out, you’re not smart enough to be our customer.” And Inovalon’s description is crammed full of it.

cloud-based data analytics . . . data-driven intervention platform . . . integration technologies . . . end-to-end capability.

3 Passive voice imposes additional burdens on the reader and hides the actors in a sentence. The subject of the sentence should be the actor.

Inovalon’s . . . platforms are informed by data pertaining to more than 754,000 physicians, 248,000 clinical facilities, and more than 120 million Americans.

For an instant improvement, rewrite all passive voice sentences in active voice

Data pertaining to more than 754,000 physicians powers Inovalon’s platforms.

I waded through that thicket for you. The least I could do is rewrite it for them and make Inovalon seem like a company you want to work with. Here’s a clear, brief, interesting version. I retained the one sentence in their description that was pretty good, as well as their trademarked tag line (it starts with “We identify gaps”).

With a database of 9.2 billion medical events from over 700,000 physicians, Inovalon has more insight into health data than anyone else. We analyze that data and apply the knowledge to help improve care options, reduce costs, and improve compliance for hospitals, doctors, insurance payers, and patients. We identify gaps in care, quality, and data integrity and apply our unique capabilities to resolving them. Inovalon: Turning Data into Insight, and Insight into Action®.

If you’re from Inovalon and you’re reading this, feel free to use my version in any materials you want.

Lesson: Always write shorter — it’s ok to leave stuff out. Rip out those fluffy adjectives and jargon, and you’ll connect with readers more effectively.

For a complete set of edits on this description, see the Google Doc.

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  1. It may be worth your time to examine the bullshit processes that yield this kind of copy. It may have started as something clear and concise, yet through layers of reviews and committee-based decisions turned into this hot mess. I see it every day. I live it. The voice of clarity is often buried in layers of ego disgued as executive management.

    1. Yes, these often start out innocuous enough but different people and versions exacerbate matters. Everyone has to chime in. You can tell that this monstrosity is the work of a bunch of people. Less would be much, much more here.