It's National Words Matter Week, an observance created by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. This year, the focus is on clarity.
What's the point in publishing content if it's not going to make sense to your audience? We all know this, but it can be difficult to execute when we're under pressure. And who isn't?
Conversely, it's easy to write without clarity, especially when:
- Thinking. We haven't thought through or researched the topic enough. When we're not confident about our subject matter, we're prone to build it up with introductory phrases and qualifying statements.
- Revising. We're in a hurry and don't a few extra minutes to revise our content, cleaning out unnecessary language (see above), shaping up our sentences and deploying the best words for the job.
- Jargonizing. We rely on too many technical terms that we're totally familiar with, but our audience is not.
How to improve clarity in your content
I can't insert more hours in the day, but I can give you some tools that will make writing crystal clear content easier:
- Thinking. Pre-writing is the best way I know to explore the topic, decide what needs to be said and figure out what additional information I need. The best tool for that is the Content-Purpose-Audience® Strategy (get the organizer), which helps us nail down the main idea and key details we need to convey, assess what we want the audience to think/do/feel after consuming the content, and answering questions or objections they may have. Another good one is the What-Why-How® Strategy (downloadable What-Why-How organizer), a framework for sussing out what we think, why we think it and how we know. Both of these tools help me get my thoughts on paper, identify gaps in logic or information, and feel more confident about the content. Clearer ideas are the first step to clearer writing.
- Revising. Even if our backs are to the wall, we should find time to revise, even if it's just five minutes! Here are 4 revisions to dramatically improve content clarity and quality:
- Develop precise descriptions, including strong verbs
- Create simple sentences with proper punctuation and sentence construction
- Establish a flowing rhythm by varying sentence length and structure
- Be concise, using just enough words to get your point across
- Jargonizing. We can't completely escape jargon, of course, but we can make a choice about whether we really need to use it or not. I decide based on my audience. When I write for a bunch of industry insiders or medical doctors, I don't worry about it too much. But if my audience is lay people, or if I'm unsure of their level of expertise, I try to avoid jargony terms, or at least explain them. The strategy here is, "let the audience be your guide".
Try these strategies this week and watch the clarity of your content soar.
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