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KISS

The power of simplicity

‘Keep it simple, stupid’ or ‘KISS’ has been drummed into me throughout my career.

It’s always been paramount – at university as I studied to become a journalist, at every media outlet I’ve worked at, and while working alongside the best writers in the business.

KISS – discover why it’s best to avoid big words, witty language and long sentences when writing to impress – and how this can help you stand out from the crowd

Why keep it simple?

So why should we aspire to simple writing? Why can’t we use big words to give an impression of sophistication, witty language to appear intelligent or creative, or long sentences to explain a point?

Because your writing is likely to become convoluted and your messages confusing.

Don’t ‘lose’ your reader

As soon as your reader needs to think about what you’ve written, you’ve lost them.

If your writing is clear, it’s more enticing for your reader. You can:

  • make more impact
  • be more succinct and powerful
  • grab your reader’s attention
  • hold your reader’s attention.

Your reader’s objective is to find and absorb information – by making your words, sentences and paragraphs long and complex, you distract them or make what should be a simple task difficult.

The most likely result? They give up.

How many times do you need to read the following sentence before it makes sense?

  • Personnel tasked with writing content recurrently encounter impasses with systematising their thoughts, and have a tendency to obfuscate the area under discussion.

Clarity

If your words and sentences are simple and concise, your writing has clarity. It’s easy to understand. And it needs to be read just once. People won’t ask what you’re trying to say. And it’s usually punchy, polished and professional. See the difference in the revised example.

  • Staff asked to write content often have trouble organising their thoughts, and tend to complicate the subject matter.

Stand out from the crowd

We’ve covered how to achieve clarity by keeping your words and sentences simple, but how do you make your messages stand out?

The secret is to keep the number of messages per communication item to a minimum. If it’s an email, for example, try keeping it to just one idea to avoid overwhelm, even confusion.

Avoid the jumble

If there’s too much information, too many action points, too many or unnecessary words, even fluff, your reader will find it more difficult to identify your key message and follow through on your call-to-action.

Don’t leave it up to your reader to work out what you want them to do – make it clear from the outset.

One way to do this is to form your key message before you start writing. By using a pre-writing plan, you can outline your key message(s), supplementary information and a structure or flow that complements your messages.

Finally

Keep the words ‘the power of simplicity’ or ‘KISS’ at the forefront of your mind as you work through the writing process. Your reader will thank you for clear, concise (and simple) writing.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave a comment below.

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