As writers, content creators and marketers, we spend a lot of our time trying to figure out how to cut through the clutter and get our messages in front of the right audiences. That often means we are not spending enough time figuring out if what we have produced is easy to understand and clear to the reader. Let’s be honest — if you break through, but no one understands you, it doesn’t really matter.
So, here are seven tips to help make your writing clear and easy to understand for your audience.
- Use specific nouns. Drill down to the details. Avoid words like thing or information if there are more specific words.
- Employ descriptive, powerful verbs. Sure, maybe the word run is a fine word for your sentence. But I get a different — and perhaps clearer — picture of the image if you use the word sprint or dash.
- Select meaningful adjectives and adverbs. If something isn’t truly one of a kind, unique is meaningless. Putting the word online in front of Web application is redundant and useless. Descriptive words should help readers get a clearer picture of what you’re saying. Whether that’s teal instead of bluish or significant in place of big, the tighter our modifiers, the clearer our writing.
- Opt for short, crisp sentences. I love complex writing. I prefer to write long and well-crafted sentences to short staccato ones. But we need to remember our readers. And one way to aid the cause of clarity is to make sure sentences are short and crisp and don’t meander.
- Explain all terms that may be foreign to your audience. Acronyms should always be spelled out on first reference. And, as much as possible, try not to assume your audience knows more than they do. Explain terms or jargon or even link to definitions in online dictionaries to make it easier on your reader.
- Limit your scope. Make sure blog posts and articles have one topic of focus. Make sure book chapters are focused. When we try to combine too much into one piece, we risk needlessly complicating our message.
- Have someone else read it. It’s easy to write in a vacuum. But seriously, if you want to get a sense of whether something is clear, have a few people read it. Ask your spouse. Ask your dad. Ask your grandma or your child. Enforce peer editing on your team.
We can debate the merits of good writing all day. We all have different opinions on what makes something good or where a comma should go. But at the end of the day, clarity is a must. Because without comprehension, you aren’t communicating.