Four simple words that will add powerful clarity to your writing

“Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.” – George Orwell

Have you ever stared at a string of words – all of which you know very well – and had absolutely no idea what they meant when put together in that particular way?

Yeah, me too. Check out this sentence I had to edit in an article a while back:

Rapid iteration of ideas can lead to improvement when coupled with smart feature prioritization and practical analysis of scheduling.

Um… what?

Seriously, what does that even mean? If you think about it long enough you may be able to puzzle out a general idea of what this sentence is trying to say, but even then I’m guessing you’re going to be fuzzy on the details.

And that’s no good because the primary goal for any piece of writing should be to communicate your message with maximum clarity.

When your writing is “transparent, like a window pane,” people no longer see the words on the page – they see the meaning behind them. But when you use overly complicated language or sentence structure, or fancy terminology with which your ideal clients or customers aren’t familiar, your words will obscure that picture instead of illuminating it, leaving people confused about what you’re trying to say.

Fortunately, there are four simple words you can ask yourself that will eliminate jargon and complicated language from your writing – and add the clarity your readers crave. Here they are:

“WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

This question might seem simple and obvious, but it’s actually very powerful. It will help you see your writing with fresh eyes and determine whether your meaning is coming through loud and clear – or if it’s being lost in a muddle of jargon and confusing sentence structure.

Here’s how you use it: when you get to the editing stage of your writing piece, take the time to review every word, phrase, and sentence with the above question in mind.

Imagine you’re trying to explain your ideas to a close friend or family member. Would you use the words you’ve written on the page, or would you use simpler language and terminology so they get what you’re saying right away? If there’s a clearer more direct way of getting your point across, do your readers a favour and make the change.

Here are some examples of what this internal dialogue might look like (based on examples of actual copy I’ve seen on Facebook recently):

VAGUE OR CONFUSING COPY EXAMPLE 1:

COPY: “Celebrate the coming of your time to shine.”

Q: “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

A: “I help women thrive mentally, physically, and spiritually during menopause.”

 

VAGUE OR CONFUSING COPY EXAMPLE 2:

COPY: Grow authentic, synergistic relationships with your tribe

Q: “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

A: Connect with your ideal clients and develop genuine personal relationships that translate into sales.

 

VAGUE OR CONFUSING COPY EXAMPLE 3:

COPY: “I’m a heart-centred empowerment catalyst.”

Q: “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

A: “I help people develop the skills and knowledge they need to make their ideal life a reality.”

Do you see how much clearer and more specific the answers are compared to the original copy samples? Sure, the revised copy might be a bit wordier, but those extra words add much-needed specificity, eliminate confusion, and ensure that the benefits of the services being offered are crystal clear.

Simple & specific beats complicated & confusing every time

The simpler and more specific your writing is, the more clearly your readers will be able to visualize exactly what you’re saying – and the more compelled your ideal clients will be to learn more about you and what you offer.

So before you hit “publish,” do yourself a favour and review your writing with this question in mind: “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?” The answers you come up with will add powerful simplicity and clarity to your writing.

And your readers will love you for it.

 

 

 

 

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