Guide to Writing & How to Write Clearly

October 19, 2015 in Articles, Writing & Publishing

The art of writing is to appeal to your audience and the larger the audience the better. Using jargon will reduce your audience and alienate you as a writer.

How And When To Strip Out Jargon From Your Writing

Most children adore secrets. And secrets not shared with adults, especially parents, gave us our first taste of power: for once we knew something they didn’t.

Adults play similar games. All of us do. We are proprietorial about our knowledge and often use words that obfuscate; that obscure or cast less light on the subject matter in question than they should do. The word ‘obfuscate’ itself shows that I, too, can play this game. But as I have added a definition at least I’m trying to keep you with me. To share our ideas you must ‘join the club’, ‘pass our tests’, and . . . ‘learn our language’ – a language that delights in inventing words only we can play with. We are superior beings. Or so we kid ourselves.

The truly superior – those who have mastered their subject and are empathetic to the needs of those less fortunate (or able) – are happy to communicate in words most people understand. They know the jargon, but their minds are above it. And there’s good reason for this: jargon restricts progress and the acquisition of new ideas because, by its nature, it excludes contributions from the world at large; from ‘free-range’ thinkers not ring-fenced by the certainties, language and accepted ways of doing things that hamper those inside the ring. The truly superior cast their web widely, sharing their knowledge openly. In return they are rewarded with further insights from others and consolidate their supremacy in their chosen field.

How to Write Clearly, It’s Simple Really

How to write clearlyBlimey! How does all this affect me, I hear you say. Simple. In your writing, both personal and professional, avoid the use of words and phrases that mark you out as one the chosen few. Use them, and you’ll stay that way. Communicate to the world with words in everyday use and you’ll be astonished at the response. More people will get your message – and understand it. This is true for fiction writers, too. Bestselling writers know instinctively what top journalists have thrashed into them: keep things simple, use short words everyone understands – and get on with the story. That’s how to write clearly in a nutshell.

Business websites aimed at consumers and business customers alike often fail because the copy, the words, are dotted with terms and jargon that mean little or nothing to the visitor. And worse – because much of the software has been written by pimple-headed illiterates in faraway places who have no communication skills whatsoever – the effectiveness of the appeal to visitors is nothing but negative.

On your website, in your business literature, decide in advance what you want to say, and where, and then write it, using commonplace words. Assume nothing about your readers, other than that they might be interested to find out more about your product or service. And in particular, ignore most if not all the words and phrases that have crept into common use on websites and are supposedly there to guide you. The majority do nothing of the sort. An example, commonly found on millions of websites, FAQ’s – frequently asked questions. Fine you might think. Think again! If your important opening pages are failing to tackle the most ‘frequently asked questions’ and you are shuffling visitors off to another page to find things for themselves the structure of the whole website is awry. But like topsy, the use of FAQ’s has just grown and grown – because herd-followers see others doing it.

Examine every word in your commercial writing and make sure it’s relevant to you, and readily understood by non-computer-literate laypersons – in other words, 99.99% of the world’s population.Believe in yourself, in your service, and appeal to others directly so they can discover in seconds precisely what your message is. They will thank you for it, but often won’t know why. Don’t explain. Your competitors might follow your example and then you’ll lose your advantage.

Professional website designers know that the most effective sites are ones where both graphics and content focus unerringly on a common objective. This means each and every word should be treated as carefully as a painter regards every brushstroke: one slip and the Mona Lisa has the beginnings of a moustache! One word out of place or inappropriate can have a similar devastating effect. Ensure your copy is polished by a professional editor and you’ll be delighted by the results. And the cost is negligible. Copywriting and editing can be quoted for by the page.

photo credit: “How will this benefit me?” via photopin (license)