Sure, some might nowadays argue that mission critical is to get clicks/eyeballs, generate leads, or miraculously prove their worth with direct sales. But while all of that sounds fine and good, such convoluted communication missions often get in the way of good business by scarifying clarity.
The truth is that it’s often those goals that get content into trouble. In an effort to attract more attention, sound like a subject matter expert, and push more sales, they say the wrong things, complicate their meaning, and destroy trust by selling too hard. In most cases, all these writers needed to do was one thing: to be better understood.
It works. You win anytime you can deliver the right message to the right audience in such a way that they readily understand it, remember it, and respond to it. Clarity comes first.
Five benchmarks for better clarity in writing.
Be Readable. While anyone with an intense interest in a subject will read the worst writing (when there are limited sources), people generally ignore content that demands too much effort.
Be Conversational. While style ought to suit the medium and the organization, the most widely read content on the Internet tends to be human, fun, and informative. It reads like we talk.
Be Spontaneous. Much like music, movie, and media industries have discovered, formulas have a short shelf life before readers find them to be stale, uninteresting, and something to avoid.
Be Descriptive. Definitions can be useful, but descriptions are easier to understand and remember. They tend to touch our emotions in ways that definitions seldom do.
Be Focused. One point is always more powerful than 50. When you consider people are bombarded with more than 100,000 messages every day, having them remember even one is quite an accomplishment. Choose that point wisely.
Some of this might read like common sense, but most experienced writers will tell you that believing in these five benchmarks is far easier than executing them. All of us are guilty of cluttering our best content with clever writing, filler to flesh out the word count, or some lofty objectives that make clients happier than their customers at one time or another.
We might even pat ourselves on the back for a job that feels well done when we turn in or click publish. It might not even be until weeks or months later that we’ll stumble across the old content and mutter that for all the accolades we missed the mark. All people really want is a few paragraphs of honest prose that they can understand and appreciate for its value, significance, and directness as something they can apply to their everyday life or, at least, help them in making better decisions.
Even in this case, it all comes back to one thing. Clarity is the content that people remember.