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1 Easy Way Of Making Information Usable

Make it legible - use Plain English

Heck even the NZ Ministry of Education are gonna give it a whirl ;-)

It's easy to do as well. Really, it is.

When you write for someone think of one reader, a real person in your organisation that will have to take your writings and actually do something with it (they don't have to know). But, if you really truly can't think of one person you either need to STOP writing as you don't have an audience and are wasting your own time OR you need to pick up the phone and talk with people to find one.

Once you have that one person in mind you may find it useful to talk with them, have them check your writing and even ask them to critique it. After a while you'll know their style and write naturally for them. Then you find one other person.

And if it sounds like hard work because you're putting out soooo much information and you believe you have the time then I would suggest you are dealing in quantity and not quality.

Some lucky people write naturally with a flow that seems supernatural, the rest of us have to work hard at it by being constantly on the watch for jargon, use of 3 words when 1 will do and general self importance in our writing. This occurs with me when I forget that I am writing FOR someone else and just like to hear the sound of my own voice :-)

There are quite a few automated tools that can help remove the worse "business wanky speak" - a great list at Wikipedia: Readbility tests. Heck, Google Docs has the Flesch-Kincaid test and Microsoft Word the Flesch reading Ease test built-in - what are you waiting for?

Within your organisation there are extremely helpful people that can help such a your comms department although sometimes they can be the worst offenders. We all know someone close that rants whenever an email full of pompousness plops into their InBox, use them and ask them what they think of your missive. And, of course, there are all those people that have to take your writings and use them ... they are the best to let you know if your writing is relevant and useful.

Finally, if you need professional help (and that's fine, we all do!) may I suggest Rachel and Alice at Contented - give them a call

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  1. I agree completely! Writing should be clear, concise, and contain the minimum number of words to communicate the message. In the immortal words of Strunk and White: omit needless words. In my words: we're in the business of communication not verbal masturbation.

    Writing is hard tho. However, I find that the effort put into writing clearly aids my own thinking by making it clear as well. Additionally, when I read muddled prose I assume that the person writing it has no clue what they're writing about.

  2. Thank you for the tip on formal readability tests! I had no idea that readability had been quantified; I'm off to test my own writing now.

    My only tip for improving readability is: rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Spend three or four times as long rewriting as you do writing. (This is true even for email).

  3. @Tim - Ha ha ha ha - cracker line!

    @Carolyn - so true ... and if possible have many eyes/keyboards help out and use collaboration tools (Google Docs anyone) to help as well :-)


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