When I am writing, whether it be for a blog, the next chapter of one of my books or a talk I am preparing, I often have to conduct research. I read articles, check facts, read other blogs and try to get a wide range of opinions to compare.
Something I have noticed is that, although being very knowledgeable on their subject, there are many writers who do not adjust their writing to make it “reader-friendly”. This applies, in particular, if I am looking at studies which have been carried out on the subject I am researching, or looking for alternative opinions.
Obviously, some studies are meant to be directed at others who work or study in that particular field and one would expect them to be more technical in their approach. But, there are times when these pieces of writing are put out into the general realm of readership and would benefit from being more accessible to the reader.
In his free weekly e-zine, available at www.mediacoach.co.uk."The Media Coach”, Alan Stephens recently wrote: “You have to be sure that people who read your posts understand what you mean by them. Does that mean you have to use simple words and ideas? Basically, yes.
It's no use using abbreviations, jargon, and references to people that few of your audience will know or comprehend. It may make you look or feel clever, but it isn't communication. It can happen by accident, simply because we all make assumptions at times that our experience and knowledge is commonplace.
The most obvious indicator that your posts are too complex is comments that say "I don't understand", or feedback that has misinterpreted the point you were trying to make. A more effective way is to ask a friend or colleague to read them. If they don't understand, a re-write is required. Keeping things simple doesn't mean dumbing-down. It's real communication.”
Note that he said “Keeping things simple doesn't mean dumbing-down.” You need to use everyday words to create basic, simple sentences, which is, mostly easy to do. However, there will be times when you may need to refer to a more complex theory or use a technical term. In that case, it’s important that you explain it fully.
If you are going to use an acronym, make sure you make it clear what those letters stand for (this applies in conversation as well as in writing). If you are known for writing on a particular topic, you may think you attract the same audience all the time, but this isn’t necessarily the case. You never know who might come across a piece of your work for the first time and you need to engage them.
Keeping your writing current is also important. You want readers to think about what you have written and hopefully take something away from it. It also helps if you are enthusiastic about the subject and a little humour never hurts. If you are writing a blog or article, try to give more than one opinion on the subject. There is one school of thought that shorter pieces are best and it’s true that you don’t need to waffle and cause the reader to lose interest. But, on the other hand you want to give enough information to support your idea.
If in doubt you can always refer to articles you have read, in order that the reader can gain more information on the subject. Always remember to give credit to other writers and state where you found a particular piece.
Whatever you are writing, whether it be a blog, an update to your website, a memo, letter or report, make sure you know what parts you wish to emphasise. Make your sentences and paragraphs limited in length and focussed on the subject.
If you’re not sure whether your piece is worth publishing, just ask yourself “Would I want to read this?”
About the Author
Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNN, BBC, CBC, The Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.
In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com and see what he can do for you in the long run.