When you provide helpful, simply written content that fills a need, you’re beginning the process that may help them to decide to become a customer. When you click on a link that promised useful content but delivers enough tech-speak to make your eyes cross, you’re not impressed – you’re frustrated!
There’s something beautiful about words simply written. One of my favorite examples is “The Revenant” by Billy Collins, a poem about a dog who has been put to sleep, returning to voice his grievances to his owner. It’s funny, smart, sad and above all, completely accessible. Reading this poem, I’m engaged, I’m interested and I’m ready to hear more. Keep it up, and I might even buy the book or go see Mr. Collins in person.
Contrast this with this poem, “The Female Friend” by Revd. Cornelius Whur (born 1782, no living poets were harmed in the making of this article). The poem is full of gratuitous wordiness, what sounds like intentional lack of clarity, and a puzzling reference to an “accomplished” female friend. I tuned out almost immediately. You?
I may just be a simple person who enjoys simple language, but I think you will find that is the case with most of us. Especially today, when we prefer video to books, images to reading, and have more information options than ever before…
If You Can’t Explain It Simply, You Simply Don’t Understand It
Yes, there are exceptions. Heart surgery, drug trial findings, electrical schematics, technical manuals – you get a free pass to write in as complex a manner as necessary. Excluding topics like those, if you truly know your subject, you should be able to break it down for even the most inexperienced reader.
Why bother breaking it down? Have you ever powered through an incredibly complex and dry article because you REALLY needed to learn how to do something, only to think by the end, “Why didn’t they just say…..?!??!” Ack! Time wasted and needless frustration do NOT make you want to return, subscribe or share the content.
If you completely understand the ins and outs of your business as well as the needs of your readers, you can make even difficult subjects easy to digest. Put yourselves in their shoes and break it down, step-by-step. Use lists, images, diagrams, and print screens.
When You Don’t Write Simply People Are NOT Impressed
Think you sound more intelligent when you use big words or drone on and on when a simple statement would suffice? You might – to some. However, you’re going to get one of three reactions from your readers:
- Frustrated because they don’t understand you, they quickly find the content they DO understand.
- They’ll tell you they don’t understand. Always keep these people close. They’ll help you become a better writer! Unfortunately, there is so much information out there that most won’t bother to tell you why they didn’t stick around on your site or inquire about your products or services. They’re just gone.
- Embarrassed to say they don’t understand, they do whatever you tell them to do. Note: this might be good for immediate cash-flow, but it does not build trust or lead to happy customers.
Write Simply to Educate and Inform
One fabulous and intelligent client of ours had a website full of technical terms suitable only for a small minority of his target audience. When I suggested that the content aimed at those who are not physicians should be modified for better accessibility, his first reaction was, “But, I want to educate people!”
Wonderful! Let’s do it! Fortunately for us, he trusted us enough to allow us to take every single page of that site and rewrite it in terms that we could understand, which meant that his readers would too. While not watering down his message, the pages took on a tone that welcomed rather than intimidated, informed instead of turning off. It wasn’t that his information wasn’t extremely valuable, it just needed to be presented in a way that was easier to digest.