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Content: 2 steps to write more clearly

Poor grammar and jargon-riddled writing are rampant. We're great at inventing terms — the instruction manual for my toaster refers to the lever that pops up the toast as the 'Extra-Lift Carriage Control Lever' — but poor at communicating what we actually mean. -- Kyle Wiens in HBR

I hear ya, Mr. Wiens!

Terms may come and go from the dictionary, but plain English never goes out of style. Yet for so many of us it's incredibly hard to shake the technical terminology and insider lingo to communicate clearly.

Now, I'm not saying you can't use technical terms. That's dumb. If you're a lawyer or scientist writing for other lawyers and scientists, you pretty much have to speak their language if you want any credibility at all. In these situations, jargon, argot and other technical terms are OK.

But when your audience is "just folks" or people less knowledgeable about the subject area than you, writing clearly is the only way to establish credibility.

Here's why: We get deeper engagement and better results when we communicate in the language of our audience. To make sure we’re “heard,” we need to “sound” like someone the audience trusts, believes and wants to hear from. The words we choose are the physical expression of our voice. The “right” vocabulary is at the audience’s knowledge level. If we aim too high — or too low — the audience loses interest, and we lose our opportunity to communicate.

How to write more clearly

1. Use direct, clear and easy-to-understand wording, even when communicating about complex topics.

Doctors who take on risk contracts must secure that risk with their salaries. If they’re good at case management — meeting the arbitrary targets set by the insurer — they might make a surplus to share among themselves. If they’re not, their salaries go down. There are no cash reserves to help them meet the deficiency, except their personal bank accounts.

2. Explain technical terms and jargon. Sometimes we can’t avoid using technical terms and jargon. Define these clearly unless the audience has the necessary knowledge to understand them.

More than 20 states are now in "Red Alert" crisis mode — meaning the number of ob-gyns isn't sufficient to meet patients' needs.

Use these two tips to help you improve the clarity of your content, and the results you get from it!

 

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