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Top 15 Rules For Writing Crystal Clear Content

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply enough, you don’t understand it.” It’s the same with our writing. Clear communications can help us to:


  • Increase Conversions.
  • Increase Audience Engagement.
  • Improve Readers’ Understanding Of Our Message.

The best way to convert prospects to customers is through plain, simple and direct communications. People will only buy from you if they understand you. If your message is garbled, then they will be confused by your brand and your product.



Top 15 Rules To Make Your Blogging,Writing Crystal Clear,Even Your Dumbest Relative Will Understand!


The core principles of clear communication come from following plain language guidelines. Plain language (also called Plain English) is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. Most business sectors now use plain language in their writing. Even the government has a special website for plain language. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires the federal government to write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner.


These principles and more are also part of an online course on plain language put out by NIH (National Institutes of Health). Joining and participating in this course is free. The Center For Plain Language also has workshops on plain language.



Remember Newspapers?


People used to get them delivered to their door and read them over breakfast. They’re big, awkward to hold and they cover your fingers in black printer ink.


Plus, getting them to your doorstep takes hours so, by the time you read a newspaper, the news isn’t all that new. Newspapers are going out of business because their news cannot keep up with the 24/7 news cycle that is so prevalent today.


Newspapers have their drawbacks but one thing they do right is make sure their stories are easy to read. By that, I mean how they actually format and layout the newspaper and each individual story. Of course, first newspapers hit you with a headline that makes you really want to read more.



Something like this headline works wonders:



THE KING OF POP IS DEAD! How he really died! 10,000 pills in 6 months

Sensational tabloids aside, the content in newspapers is usually good ~ the writing’s high quality and they usually get their facts straight.


But quality content isn’t all you expect when you buy a newspaper and it isn’t enough for blog writing either.


All newspapers make sure their content is easy to read by constraining the width of their columns and that’s what their readers expect.


Blog writers need to do the same and format their blog posts so they’re easy to read. Long narrow newspaper columns mean your eye can easily jump from the end of one line to the beginning of the next without losing its place.


If the column’s too wide readers will keep getting lost, unless they enlist their finger to help them keep track. Even if they do that they’ll get frustrated and won’t enjoy the reading experience.


This is just one element of traditional media and legibility knowledge that we can use on our blogs or website layout. Newspapers follow set rules for the formatting and lay out their stories to make them easy to read and bloggers need to follow some too. Blog writing and formatting content for the Web is more complex than writing for print because how we read on a computer screen is different to how we read in print and more challenging.



Top 15 Inescapable Rules For Writing With Total Clarity


Fortunately you can follow some simple rules to transform fuzzy writing into a lean, mean idea spreading machine.



Rule #1: Use The “X who Y” Formula To Pigeonhole Your Readers -


Clear writing has a clearly-defined audience.

Writing a post for a specific audience allows you to easily answer questions such as:



  • What do they already know and what do they need to be told?
  • What’s interesting and relevant?
  • What do they want and what do they fear?

Try to describe your audience with this simple formula:


X who Y.


For example: “Bloggers who want to get more traffic.”


Or: “People who lack self-confidence.”


Or: “Artists who are struggling to make a living from their work.”


Make sure you have a clear audience in mind when you write.


The audience for this post is: “Bloggers who want to improve their writing skills”




Rule #2: Make Sure Your Topic Passes The Fortune Cookie Test -


If you can’t explain what your post is about in one simple, short sentence, it’s probably too complex or unfocused.

Even in-depth posts need an easy-to-grasp premise you could fit inside a fortune cookie.


For example: “My post teaches the reader three steps for overcoming procrastination.”


Or: “My post uses new research to persuade the reader to eat less red meat.”


Your headline sells the idea of your post to the reader, but if the idea itself isn’t simple, you’ll struggle to write it with clarity.


The fortune cookie message for this post would be: “My post gives bloggers some simple rules for writing more clearly”



Rule #3: In The Beginning, Be As Predictable As Possible -


Make sure a clear connection exists between the opening of your post and the headline. Otherwise the reader will quickly become distracted.

Imagine sitting down to watch a movie called “Space Station Alpha” and discovering that the first scene showed a wizard and a dwarf battling a dragon. You’d wonder if you were watching the right movie.


That’s because there’s a disconnect between the expectation set by the title and the information delivered by the opening.


Writers often make the mistake of thinking that a disconnect creates curiosity. They believe their reader will think, “I can’t wait to find out how he connects this with that!”


But far more often, a disconnect breeds confusion instead.


And confusion is the enemy of clarity.



Rule #4: A Little Stress Goes A Long Way -


Writing is a conversation between you and your reader.

In the real world, you can use hand gestures and a shift in tone to signpost key ideas.


But as a writer, you must rely on other tools.


If a sentence, phrase or word is particularly important or significant, use bold or italics to add stress.


But don’t overdo it.


If everything is emphasized, nothing is.


(See what I mean?)



Rule #5: Variety Doesn’t Add spice – It Adds Confusion -


Always be consistent with your terminology.

If your audience comprises people who write online, are they “writers” ,“bloggers” or “authors”? Pick one and stick to it.


Otherwise the reader won’t know if you’re trying to make a subtle distinction or simply avoiding using the same word twice.



Rule #6: Repetition Is Good - Repetition Is Good -


If a point is worth making, it’s worth making twice. Or even three times.

Think: what’s the most important idea to leave with your reader when they finish the post? Mention it twice in the body and make sure you repeat it in the closing. Otherwise it will surely get lost.


This post keeps repeating – and reinforcing – the central idea: a lack of clarity stops ideas from spreading.



Rule #7: Write Like A Paranoid, Secretive CIA Agent -


When passing useful information to your reader, always work on a “need to know” basis.

Only tell them what they need to know to follow your argument. Share the minimum you need to convey the desired message.


Remember, people aren’t reading your post to expand their general knowledge.


They’re reading because they want what you promised them in the headline.



Rule #8: Lead By Example -


Clear examples help readers understand difficult concepts.

They help make an abstract idea concrete. They make a general principle specific.


If you’re a social media blogger teaching your readers how to write highly-engaging tweets, don’t just explain the principles, give them some specific examples of people who are doing it well.


Just like this post gives some great examples of people who write awesome subheads.



Rule #9: Generally Speaking, Specific Is Better -


When you provide specific detail in your writing, there’s less room for ambiguity. Your reader is far more likely to end up with the same idea in their head as you have in yours.

Being specific also requires less effort on their part – they don’t need to expend any mental energy to fill in the blanks.


To give an example, “exercise regularly” is general. “Take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes three times a week” is specific.


(And in case you were wondering “exercise regularly” is still concrete. We can imagine what it looks and sounds like, but we have to fill in the specific details for ourselves – walking, jogging, swimming, etc. By contrast, “understand the importance of exercise” is abstract.)



Rule #10: Uncertainty Is The Enemy Of Clarity -


Be firm and definite in your writing.

Clarity does not tolerate “might”, “may” or “possibly”


If you can’t say something with certainty, perhaps you shouldn’t be writing about it at all.


But this rule comes with an exception.


Artful vagueness can be used in an opening to be more inclusive. The opening for a personal finance blog might contain the following paragraph:


Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of owning a yacht. Or maybe you simply want to retire in your 30s.


It allows you to be relevant to a wider group of people. It cleverly gives the illusion of specificity.


But once into the body of your writing, be sure of yourself. Uncertainty erodes clarity.



Rule #11: Guns May Be Scary But Bullets Are Your Friend -


Writers can be a little snobbish about using bullet points. They feel too much like lazy shorthand. Not proper writing.

After all, Shakespeare didn’t use many bullet points. Nor Dickens.


But if you’re in the business of spreading ideas, you must make friends with bullets.


Bullets help to identify a group of related ideas, they break up a dense sentence into easily digestible chunks and they give your post more visual variety on the page.


In fact, it bears repeating. Bullets:



  • Make it easy to identify a group of related ideas
  • Break up a dense sentence into easily digestible chunks
  • Give your post more visual variety on the page

Much clearer, right?



Rule #12: Respect The Natural Order Of Things -


If you were giving your reader a list of steps, you’d present them in the order they needed doing, right? Obviously.

But if the items in your list aren’t steps, they often still have a natural order – even if you didn’t have one in mind when you wrote them.

For instance, if you’re a food blogger giving a list of your favorite healthy meals, it makes sense to start with breakfast not dinner.

If you’re publishing a list of productivity habits, start with the easy ones and finish with the harder ones.

Because if the reader spots an item out of its natural order, they will pause and wonder why you didn’t do it differently.

To find the natural order of your list, ask yourself whether the items exist on some spectrum, for instance:

  • past to present
  • young to old
  • small to large
  • local to global
  • slow to fast
Clear writers respect the natural order of things. They never give their readers a reason to stop reading.

Rule #13: Don’t Close Like Columbo


Remember Columbo’s famous catchphrase “Just one more thing”?

Many writers find it hard to resist putting “just one more thing” in the closing of their posts.


A bonus step. An extra example. One last piece of advice.


You think you’re being generous but truthfully you’re being greedy. Greedy with your reader’s time, their attention, and their patience.


Once into the closing, the reader will assume you’ve already told them everything they need to know. They’ve mentally drawn a line in the sand. They’ve packed all this new information neatly into their head and now you’re asking them to repack it all so you can add something else.



Don’t commit this crime against clarity. Chances are, you won’t get away with it.

Rule #14: Unannounced Lists (like unannounced guests) Make People Uncomfortable -


Bullets are a valuable tool, but you should never drop your reader into a list without first setting the scene.


  • It’s jarring.
  • It’s clumsy.
  • It ‘s unclear.

See what I mean?


An introductory sentence or subhead works better because:



  • It establishes the context.
  • It provides a smooth transition into the first point.
  • It keeps the reader reading.

Clear writers take the time to introduce their bullet points.



Rule #15: Channel Your Inner Sergeant Major -


One last hallmark of crystal clear writing remains.

Does the reader know exactly what you expect them to do once they've finished your post?


If not, all other efforts are wasted. No amount of clarity in the rest of your post will save you from a reader left floundering at the end.


So include a clear call-to-action. Tell your reader what you want them to do.


Make it concrete. Make it specific.


Better still, make it the first obvious step on the path to achieving what you promised them at the start of the post.


Even shout at them if you have to.



It’s Time to Stop Crippling Your Ideas


Let’s be honest; clarity is not a quality at the top of the average writer’s wish list.


Few budding writers have stood in front of the mirror and declared, “I’m going to be the clearest damn writer the world has ever known!”


But without clarity, those other qualities that hog the limelight – passion, invention, empathy, originality – are rendered useless.


People can’t spread ideas they don’t fully understand. They won’t take the time to peer through muddy writing to see the ideas beneath. They have too many other distractions demanding their attention.


And those world-changing ideas that wake you up in the middle of the night remain trapped in your head and doomed to obscurity.


Unless you learn how to assemble ideas in the heads of other people.


Unless you master the art of clarity.


Because crystal clear writing is like plugging your reader directly into your brain stem. Ideas flow from you to them without noise or distortion.


So take another look at the rules above. Print them out. Pin them so you can see them whenever you write.


Then stand in front of the mirror and say, “My next post will be my clearest damn writing yet!”


Because it’s time to set your ideas free.



Top 15 Rules To Make Your Blogging,Writing Crystal Clear,Even Your Dumbest Relative Will Understand!



Conclusion


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Top 15 Rules For Writing Crystal Clear Content Reviewed by Soumadeep Patra on 06:10:00 Rating: 5

2 comments:

  1. This post is educative and clarifying. Thoughtful and engaging too.Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. yes it was Felix very awesomely informative. Thank you

    ReplyDelete

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