Simplify That Perspicuous, Transpicuous Writing

It comes across your desk or your screen. A writing nightmare. Complex, complicated, multi-syllabic words strewn together to convey who knows what. Forging your way through the copy would take a dictionary and thesaurus. How quickly do you turn to something else? Almost immediately – and with a groan.

Readers respond to simplicity in wording. It’s not that we don’t appreciate a good vocabulary. (My apologies to the ninth grade English teacher who enhanced my vocabulary one flash card at a time.) It’s that we want information in easy-to-grasp, streamlined packaging. Make it more complicated, and we, at best, just scan the copy.

Simplify your wording to keep your reader’s attention:

  • Go for graspable words. Replace “endeavor” with “try” and “ameliorate” with “change.” Otherwise you may sound “disingenuous” (insincere) or cause your reader to pause which means you’ve lost his attention.
  • Avoid the thesaurus. “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” So sayeth master writer Stephen King. That word you rarely use in every day terminology can “obfuscate” (confuse) your reader.
  •  Use the right word. For instance, “plethora” means excessive, not a wide range. And there is still no such word as “irregardless.”

If you think bigger words attract the reader, look at The Wall Street Journal. It is written at an 11th grade level. The widely popular “People” comes in at a sixth grade level. We rate the writer’s intelligence on a descending scale linked to the number of syllables splotched across the page.

Eons ago, a man tried to start a conversation with me by asking “where do you matriculate?” I knew we would never have any chemistry. Your writing contributes to the chemistry you are creating (or destroying) with your reader. Remember, that convoluted, conspicuous, cacophonic communications will put your reader off. Write to your reader to create relationships.

For more clues on improving your business writing skills, click here to purchase the Better Business Writing workbook.

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