Have you ever read a book, a newsletter or an article and discarded it halfway because it felt wooden? Perhaps, it was because of the language employed which, instead of making the reading flow along seamlessly and be enjoyable, made for dull reading. The excuse? That it was industry specific, hence the heavy use of jargon resulting in the unintended consequence of the piece of work being incomprehensible.
This is best illustrated in George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language. In this essay, he castigates his contemporaries for their bad habits in their written English and which he terms as ‘modern English’. In it, he parodies how the poetic verse that is Ecclesiastes 9:11 might be written in modern English to illustrate how bad writing loses the reader.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 (KJV): “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
Its equivalent in modern English: “Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.”
So, how can you enhance your writing to resonate with your readers? Irrespective of the kind of writing you are engaged in (a book, a newsletter or an annual report), the following tips are a handy guide to making your work accessible to readers.
Flow: Good writing glides along smoothly. This is achieved via the conscious use of language- observing the rules of grammar, turn of phrase, judicious use of paragraphs, mixing short and long sentences to pace out the story and the like. Generating your content via word processing and proofreading applications such as Microsoft Word and Grammarly will go a long way in ensuring your writing flows smoothly and is free of embarrassing typos.
Infographics: In summary, infographics turns that which is abstract into concrete and easily recallable facts. These includes flow charts, pie charts, graphs and the like employed to break down processes into easily digestible chunks of information as well as show the relationships between various variables. Infographics are also employed to highlight the key messages contained in a publication.
Imagery: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ so goes the adage. Employment of images provides context for your content as well as helps to break the monotony of continuous reading. For instance, suppose you are doing a publication on poverty eradication. While your words, facts and figures might be rather abstract in your argument on what can be done to eradicate poverty, the image of a child will definitely add the human element to your arguments. An image being a rather powerful persuasion tool, you have to be judicious in your choice. For instance, in our example on poverty eradication, do you select an emaciated child in a drought ravaged village as your cover photo or do you select smiling and smartly dressed children in a classroom setting?
Font: A well done, coherent and enjoyable publication might be undone by one small hitch. Font. Think of font as digital handwriting. Just as there are people with nice handwriting and there is the illegible doctor’s scrawl, so too are fonts. Fonts not being all equal, your publication will definitely benefit from the services of a professional designer thus making your publication legible and thus, accessible. In the words of Mac Baumwell, when it comes to font selection, “Each letter should have a flirtation with the one next to it.”