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  • Writer's pictureDan White

How To Simplify Your Writing

You want to get heard online. Of course you do. You want your web visitors to understand what you do – and why it matters. You want to hold their attention and capture their imagination. You want them to remember you.

For that you need simple writing. People move through web content at a furious pace, searching for stuff that’s relevant to them. There’s no room for verbal clutter. Here’s a quick guide to writing content that’s all killer, no filler.

Simplifying doesn’t mean dumbing down

Exactly. Do not confuse simplicity with a lack of quality. Simple writing does not mean giving up on imagination. Or wit. Or intelligence. If you think otherwise, maybe Albert Einstein can change your mind. He had a knack of expressing complex ideas with beautiful simplicity.

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

– Albert Einstein

Writing simply doesn’t mean dumbing down or patronising your reader. It’s about taking action to make sure your message is heard.

“Easy reading is darn hard writing.”

– Nathaniel Hawthorne

Front load your content

Put the most important information where it’s most likely to be read. At the start.

Watch out for long sentences

There is no sweet spot when it comes to sentence length. Good writing is about listening to the rhythm of your words and mixing the length of your sentences. Some short, some long. But as a rule you should watch out for any sentences longer than 20 words or so. Long sentences are hard to process.

Write like you talk

Filling your writing with fancy words might boost your ego, but it makes life difficult for your reader. Which is more important? Save your Dickens impersonation for your personal memoirs and write it like you would say it. As if you were talking to your reader in the street.

Humans relate to humans, not thesauruses.

This doesn’t mean you have to abolish nuances of tone. Spoken language has just as many shades of tone as written language. If you went to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, you would talk differently to the way you speak with your friends on a Friday night at The Dog & Duck.

Beware of complex lingo

Every area of human expertise has its own terminology. If you are an expert writing for other experts, by all means use the lingo. But beware. Complex terminology muddies the waters of clarity. Be guided by your audience. If they are non-experts then you need to follow one of the golden rules of marketing: write so a child can understand it.

Ditch the chaff

Got a decent first draft? Great. Now revisit every sentence and remove the clutter – words that add length but not value. Serial offenders are words like really, very, completely, totally, absolutely, kind of and incredibly. The more chaff you remove, the more your message comes to the fore. Be ruthless.

Use subheads

People don’t like being presented with huge chunks of writing. Especially online. Subheads make it easy to chop content into manageable chunks. Even better, they act as signposts that guide your reader through your writing, moving them logically from one point to another, step by step. Subheads are your friends. Use them.

The world of digital media is awfully noisy. Getting heard is about sharing a simple message, not shouting the loudest. Make life easy for your reader and they are more likely to come along for the ride.


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