Simple writing is effective. That’s the truth.
Ernest Hemingway wrote “The Old Man And The Sea” at a 4th grade level. Then he won a Nobel prize with it the next year.
Simple writing makes it easy for readers to follow along. Which helps them to easily take in your message.
And that’s what you want.
Your goal is not to impress them with your writing. You goal is for them to hear your ideas.
Once they take in your ideas, you can earn their confidence. Maybe even their trust. And then you can win their support.
That support will help you to get results. And those results will greatly improve your career prospects over time.
So let’s look at how to create simple and effective writing.
Simple writing is all about being clear
The beauty of simple writing is that it is CLEAR:
Clean, Lean, Easy, And Repeatable.
Clean writing is natural and unprocessed. All the additives that make it “fancy” and “sophisticated” and “nuanced” mostly take away from your core message.
Lean writing has no fat. Take away all the stuff that adds weight but doesn’t add value to your message.
Easy writing means that it’s easy on the reader. Avoid anything that slows down the reader or complicates your message.
And Repeatable writing makes it easy for your reader to spread the word. A soundbyte, key phrase, or compelling analogy will go a long way. (I’m hoping that CLEAR becomes an easy way for you to remember this goal of simple writing.)
Let’s look at the building blocks of a clear message.
Simple words, sentences and paragraphs.
The building blocks of writing are words, sentences and paragraphs. Make each one simple.
- Use small words. Say “two parts” instead of “dichotomy.”
- Use familiar words. Say “profit” is instead of “net income.”
- Use short sentences. Look for commas. A lot of those extra phrases could probably be sentences of their own.
- Use active voice. Say “Clients love our product” rather than “Our product is loved by clients.”
- Use short paragraphs. Most of the time, you only need a two or three sentences. Sometimes one sentence is a paragraph.
- Use orderly paragraphs. Put things in order of importance, in order of time, or some other logical sequence. Make it flow easily for the reader.
Simple can be scary
Maybe one of the trickiest things about writing a simple and clear message is that it can be scary.
That’s because in order to write a simple and clear message, you have to know exactly what you want to say. And you’re going to have to say it without a lot of filler text or fancy words to hide behind.
This is why simple is not easy. Not because you can’t substitute words, shorten sentences, or write punchy paragraphs. But because you need to get up enough nerve to do so.
Which means that you have to do your homework. You need to get really clear about what you want to say. About why your idea is good. And you need to be brave enough to stand behind it.
But all of that is exactly what is going to make your message compelling to readers. And that’s what you need to get results.
The best writers in the world create works that are easy to read. Their writing doesn’t get in the way of their message.
Simple writing helps your message flow easily to your readers. Which helps you to get the results you want.
That’s why your goal should be to be clear: clean, lean, easy and repeatable.
You can do this by writing with simple words, simple sentences, and simple paragraphs.
And you can be bold enough to say what you mean and mean what you say. Because you want your message to be compelling so that you can get results.