So, you think you’re a good writer because you use big words, long sentences and industry jargon? Sorry, but you’re actually a bad writer.
Good writers think of their audience and try to keep things simple. Bad writers think of themselves and try to sound profound.
The purpose of writing is to express ideas. Effective writing successfully transmits ideas from writer to reader. When a reader is left confused, it is generally the fault of the writer.
Many writers will disagree. They’ll blame the reader for not being smart enough to understand their writing or not working hard enough to do so. But why should readers have to go to so much trouble? Why can’t writers just present their ideas clearly?
A common rebuttal is: ‘My ideas are too complex to be understood by a typical person.’ That’s occasionally true, but usually false. Most ideas can be broken down to bite-sized chunks – as long as the writer is willing to invest some time and brainpower.
How? Here are five tips for producing effective writing.
Use fewer words, not more words
People have short attention spans, so get to the point quickly. Don’t use eight words when six will do. “I live in a big house” is better than “I live in a big, grand, imposing house”.
Use short paragraphs, not big blocks of text
Readers get intimidated by long paragraphs, because they seem like hard work. The harder readers have to work, the more likely they’ll stop reading. So make things easier for them by breaking up the text.
Use full-stops, not commas
You know a sentence has gone on too long not when it has too many words but when it has too many thoughts.
Bad writers separate those thoughts with commas, so that one blends into the next. Good writers separate them with full-stops, so they can be digested one at a time.
Here’s an example of a sentence with too many thoughts:
Peter walked to the shop to buy some bread, he wanted the bread so he could make a chicken sandwich for his girlfriend, that’s because she was sad and she loved chicken sandwiches and he thought it might cheer her up.
Those thoughts would be easier to digest in four sentences:
Peter walked to the shop to buy some bread. He wanted the bread so he could make a chicken sandwich for his girlfriend. That’s because she was sad. She loved chicken sandwiches and he thought it might cheer her up.
Use small words, not big words
You might think readers will be impressed if you use big words; it’s more likely they’ll be confused.
Take the sentence below – we wrote it and we still can’t understand it.
Peter peregrinated to the shop to purchase some bread. He wanted the bread so he could manufacture a chicken sandwich for his paramour. That’s because she was melancholy. She idealised chicken sandwiches and he thought it might revivify her.
Use English, not jargon
To follow on from point #4, readers don’t get impressed by acronyms and buzzwords – they get confused.
For example, real estate agents needlessly alienate buyers when they say their homes contain BIRs or can be modified STCA. Agents would get a better response if they said their homes contained built-in ’robes or could be modified subject to council approval.
Writers should also avoid words that appear to have been created by the BizEnglish Robot™. Technologies should be ‘used’ not ‘leveraged’. Proposals should be ‘detailed’, not ‘granular’. Customers should be ‘loyal’ not ‘sticky’.
Make the change
Could your writing be replicated by Hunter & Scribe’s next-gen, cutting-edge, end-to-end BizEnglish Robot™? If so, it’s time to stop speaking business and start speaking English.
While you’re at it, ditch the big words, long sentences and massive paragraphs. You’ll be amazed at how much clearer, and more persuasive, your writing becomes.