Easy Reading: Does Your Writing Need Clarity

“It isn’t wordy. It’s technical.”

This was the retort I got recently from a writer after editing his technical article. His article was technically solid, but for our audience I needed something with clear explanations for those who weren’t as educated as he was.

Sooner or later, and for one reason or another, all of us have to string together words and sentences in a readable manner. Although different types of writing involve organizing those words in different ways, anything we produce shouldn’t put our audience to sleep. We need clarity in writing.

It’s true that the short one-hundred word blog post and the technical one-hundred page white paper are written differently. But whether your audience is the casual reader skimming through your web site or the engineer looking for detailed information on your latest widget, your material should still be easy to read.

If your information is technical and for a highly educated audience, it is not an excuse to pad your writing with clichés, to use sentences with ten words when five will do, or to use a five-syllable word when a two-syllable word can be substituted.

And even with a highly technical readership you still should write as plainly as possible. The best articles cut down on the jargon whenever possible. No one is impressed by your use of big words and worse, most people will zone out and ignore your message.

Here, then, are three strategies to make your writing easier to read:

  • Avoid clichés: There’s a reason they are called clichés and that is that these phrases are overused. The phrase “thinking outside of the box” comes to mind. Also “my journey” when referring to a personal experience.
  • Don’t use five words when one will do. Cut wordiness like “excessive number of” and substitute “too many,” change “make contact with” to “meet” or “call,” and instead of “with regard to” use “about.” Search your own writing for similar bloated sentences.
  • Use shorter words when you can. For example, would you call a coworker and tell them that you need to “interface” with them on a project? Hopefully you used “meet” instead.

Remember that your article or blog post (and comment on any forum) can be picked up and distributed on to other Internet sites without you knowing. Prospective clients and potential employers will search for you online and anything you wrote leaves a “trail of breadcrumbs” that can be followed.

Writing with clarity doesn’t mean “dumbing down” your message, it just makes sure it’s easy to read.

Trish is a marketing communications specialist with an eclectic background as a marketing manager, feature writer, graphic designer, art teacher, and exec admin.

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