The Power of Simple Writing

The art of simplicity is making its mark as minimalist design principles are being seen in product design, web and even writing.The Power of Simple Writing

Social networks such as Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram have shown us that the skill of keeping it simple can be a key to success. Apple’s product design genius is not in how many buttons you can cram onto a device but is solved by the question “can I do it with just one button?

Less is more.

Keeping it simple takes time and effort. Stripping something back to its essence requires thought and effort. It means wrangling, wrestling and removing unnecessary words.

There is a quote that is attributed to Blaise Pascal and also Mark Twain that I have never forgotten.

I would have written a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time

I remember attending grammar classes and struggled with the rules and regulations. To overcome my resistance I resorted to writing in a conversational style.

It worked.

Grammar is complex. Conversation is simple. Write as you speak and that simple power will work its magic

What does the power of simple writing mean?

So what does “keeping it simple” mean for writing and content as a blogger and online publisher.

It means:

1. Simple words

Words do not need to be 3 or 4 syllables. In fact a single syllable word can be much more powerful in its impact

2. Simple stories

Want to get a point across? Use a simple story. It will be far more memorable than a complex paragraph as it will tap into the power of emotions and memory.

3. Simple structure

Keep the writing structure simple with bullet points and sub-titles and your key elements will stand out. People will thank you for that.

4. Simple in length

Keep your sentences short and don’t use more than 3 or 4 together. Writing for the web means designing it for skimming and scanning

5. Simple headline

Simple powerful headlines that capture the essence of your article are compelling. Often though we want to write a headline that search engines love and want to index. The challenge between simplicity and optimizing for Google is a constant tension point.

6. Simple to understand

Sometimes we forget that we are writing for a global audience and using simple words is appreciated by those who do not have English as their first language.

7. Simple to implement

If you are offering “How to’s” when writing online then create simple steps that lead people by the hand and show them how to do something one step at a time. They will love you.

8. Simple image

If you are wanting to add some impact to the words then also use simple but iconic images. This sometimes takes effort, neurons and creativity.

What about you?

Taking the time to make it simple will win you friends, readers and viewers, because distilling the complex to short and simple is a valuable skill that shines through.

Less is more..what do you think?

 

Image by Shutterstock

Comments

  • http://www.danielmelbye.com/ Daniel Melbye

    I totally agree. I prefer writing that is clean and informative. Most of all I dislike writing filled with unnecessary industry language. I suspect that people on some level feel it makes them knowledgeable, but it takes more skill and understanding to communicate ideas simply

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks for the comment Daniel. The “Curse of Knowledge” invokes some people to use big words, jargon and acronyms. That does not lead to good communication.

  • Andrew SH

    SimpleTon

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Good writing also needs to speak to the audience it is meant for. Yes academics are writing for selective audience but it wouldn’t hurt some of them to write a version that gives their content broader appeal. Sometimes great ideas are buried in verbosity that stops them spreading. Simple doesn’t mean dumb!

    • Richard Hussey

      Spot on Jeff. I tell clients and seminars over and over again: ‘If you have a good story to tell about your business, why would you want to do this in anything other than straightforward language everyone can understand?’ There’s nothing condescending about that; you are paying your audience the respect of putting your content in their language and in a format that suits them. Better than writing to impress every time.

      I don’t think blog articles always need to be short. In fact I find I’m tending to write longer ones than I used to. But breaking the content up with headings, short paragraphs and illustrations makes it less intimidating and ‘scannable’ for people who choose to read it that way.

      • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

        Thanks Richard for your insights. Long form content can be structured for simplicity and I often write posts much longer than 1,000 words.

      • http://printfirm.com/ Katherine Tattersfield

        I think almost every professional writer understands the needs to adapt copy to suit the audience. Straightforward and simple are not necessarily the same thing. When I hear the word “simple” in this context, I think monosyllabic. That’s what I find condescending. It’s not about trying to “impress” the reader. It’s about communicating beyond an elementary level. Yes, academics tend to use 50 dollar words. If you don’t know what they mean, look them up. Isn’t that part of the reading experience?

  • writenow

    Got it.

  • http://www.minecraftgames.co/ Minecraft Games

    I think that your perspective is deep, its just well thought out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts down so well.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks :)

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Thanks Katrina for your feedback and glad to hear that you are inspired. That is one of my goals when writing!

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Thanks Suraj and good to hear you enjoyed the Mark Twain quote.

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Glad to hear you found it inspiring Raquel. :)

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Sometimes those of us who have English as a first language forget there are other readers from other non- English speaking countries. Thanks for the reminder Vanessa.

  • http://printfirm.com/ Katherine Tattersfield

    Exactly! Simple sentences loaded with “to be” verbs may be easy to understand, but certainly don’t do justice to complex ideas.

  • Kristin Rice

    I went to a Jesuit college and it was the same thing. In all of my classes from English to science I learned how to think critically and use simple, precise language to convey my ideas.

  • Kristin Rice

    Could not agree more with this post. The foundation of everything I have ever done as a communications professional is based on this idea of using the right words, not necessarily the longest words, to convey my ideas. It sometimes requires more work on my part in terms of reworking and revising content, but it makes for a better experience for my audience.

  • Praverb

    Great point Jeff. Simplicity is awesome. Your posts are effective because of the language you use. Complexity can confuse people. Thank you for writing articles that everybody understands.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks Praverb :)

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Yes, simple doesn’t mean “simpleton” It comes down to the essence and clarity of communication.

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    You are right. Complicated doesn’t mean clever.

  • Kristine Allcroft

    I think that context and purpose should guide content. Therefore, sometimes simple is the best – but not always. If you have a good mix of long and short blogs on your website and re-purpose them wisely it tends to give you better “Google juice”

  • Dawn-Renée Rice

    I think it’s important to strike a balance between writing posts in simpler words and some in more complex terms. For example. starting a series on a certain subject in a simple way, then digging deeper into each item in the series. This article is an example of a simple blog post that can be broken down into a series that delves deeper into the how’s and why’s of each subtopic.

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Perfectly put Ed. Thanks :)

  • Meika Aysal

    Thanks Jeff. A short and sweet example of how to deliver a message. Something that my industry (law) is guilty of forgetting when communicating with clients.

  • http://www.thecommunicat.com Niran Adedokun

    Very helpful post. Traditional journalists find the short and sharp essence of the online platforms difficult but I think its the way to go for anything you write. Thanks!

  • Apollo

    I like this article. It just gave me a boost of confidence.

  • Jon Eames

    I think false dichotomies are bad for everyone. Mark Twain (god rest his over-quoted soul) would suffer cardiac arrest at what people determine to be “minimalist” Language is a continuum. Vilify “complexity” and you’ve vilified “simplicity.”

    Language is a “layer” we artificially put on “nature”. “Nuance” can actually “simplify” ..

    Admittedly, I find most bloggers terrible writers.

  • MSM

    What a great post shared with us. site Thanks a lot.