Sea Level or C-Level

In a recent business writing workshop, a participant introduced himself by saying he writes for a C-level audience. Another attendee, who lives in Alaska and works with the communities of the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands, was immediately intrigued: Sea level writing? Why didn't she know about that?

In many places in corporate America "C-level" refers to senior executives: chief executive officers (CEOs), chief financial officers (CFOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and others. They sit in the "C-suite."

My guess is that people who live in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands are much more interested in sea level than C-level.

Our lesson, once again: Consider your audience.

Do you have lessons to share? I welcome them!

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  1. Really quite interesting reading and informative difference. I hope people will understand this difference and will not be confused between C and Sea. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Fascinating. I initially thought they were referring to third-tier, as in A, B, C-level writing, intended for those in lower management or operational level. 🙂

  3. Whatever happened to Plain English? I wish people do not use terms such as this. It is better to say “Executive Level” rather than C-Level and people will understand it better.

  4. Wow — I must really be out of the loop! I was a teacher for many years and thought C-level referred to C academic level (OK, but not super bright, so write accordingly)! Thanks for expanding my horizons this morning.

  5. I recall my own confusion when I first heard the term. I was working as a consultant and in a situation where it would have been awkward to ask, “What does C-level mean?” Fortunately, it was clarified within a few seconds in the conversation.
    I have learned (am learning?) that it’s OK to ask questions like that, but it’s not always comfortable.
    As speakers and writers, we must continually guard against using jargon that is not commonly understood. Some communicators use trendy phrases to show that they are “in the know.” But is that more important than being understood? We should strive to rank clarity above ego.

  6. Hello, Travel Writer, Rona, Renga, Patty, and Randy. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    It is fun to note that “C-level” made some of you think of third-tier employees and C grades in school. You made my point wonderfully!

    Randy, as a consultant, I too have found myself struggling to understand the jargon in the room, on the screen, and on the page. In my case, it is usually part of the reason I am brought into a company–to improve communication. Your advice is perfect.


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