Thursday, November 7, 2013

Aim Your Business Writing for a 6th-Grader's Vocabulary and Attention Span?

The age-old acronym of KISS, "Keep it simple, stupid!" is almost the universal mantra of clean, intelligible business writing.  Today, when readers have an internet full of choices a click away, it's all the more important to communicate in a clear, concise, simple manner.  Don't condescend to your readers as though they are a bunch of adolescents, but use words, writing structure, and concepts that are as clear to a 12-year-old as to an MBA.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The Huffington Post

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Universally, the biggest gasp I get when I meet people new to marketing, PR, or advertising is that most ad copy is restricted to a 6th grade reading level. I am going to use this blog post to reassure everyone that writing simply should mean writing elegantly and not writing simplistically, resulting in young adult fiction. While the reading ease is kept simple, we're generally not writing to appeal to 12-year-olds. One of the biggest challenges that writers have across all disciplines is with interpretation. While ambiguity and nuance is favored by poets and novelists, creating copy that isn't concise, clear, and succinct is a disservice to my clients.

What is required, at least online and when engaging bloggers, is messaging that endures the obligatory game of telephone that always happens when sharing between people. If you've never heard of telephone, I thought I would share this from Wikipedia:
The first player whispers a phrase or sentence to the next player. Each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next. The last player announces the statement to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first.

Social media is essentially a game of telephone, so it is critical to make sure the last player receives as intact a message as possible, no matter who is in the chain. No matter their background, native tongue, education, gender, cultural heritage, age, or disposition, our most important job is creating messaging that both injects a durable copy into the mind and consciousness of the consumer while also making it past the client's review.

It isn't easy, to be sure. If I choose a word that someone isn't familiar with, they generally won't take the time to explore the OED -- not because of intellect but because people are busy, people have limited time and attention, and we don't have them on salary. The time we have with them is generally limited to five minutes from opening an email pitch to when a blogger clicks on [Post] on their blog.

Gustave Flaubert was fastidious in his devotion to finding the right word, le mot juste, and so should we be because when you're able to spend a little time distilling your message, the client's message, or your company's mission, then you'll probably learn quite a lot about yourself as well as how you're perceived."

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