Blue Glass, a search and social media marketing firm, publishes a list of 33 Things to Ask Before Hitting Publish. Even with 33 items, it’s a helpful list, if not a bit overwhelming. Here are seven which I think are very important. These fall under the headings of Perception and Clarity.
With writing, you don’t have the additional help of body language and inflection to help convey meaning. Choose your words carefully — it’s all too easy for your audience take your writing out of context.
Questions to ask:
- What connotations surround this word?
- Could this word or phrase be misconstrued in a different way than intended?
- Might this word or phrase make us appear to take a position on an issue in our industry, even if we don’t have a particular stance?
ClarityIf you use too many words, your message becomes buried. If you use too few words, your message risks being too vague. But usually, the more concise language you use to get your point across, the better.Questions to ask:
- Can we eliminate any redundancies? Redundant phrases are common in spoken language, but phrases like “plan ahead,” “advance planning,” and “close proximity” only add clutter to your writing. For more, see this list of common redundancies. (Psst…in certain cases, being redundant is OK!)
- Is the language too technical?Unless you’re writing a technical manual, keep the jargon out. If you must use technical words, be sure to explain what those words mean.
- Can we say the same thing using less words? Watch out for “wordy phrases” — anything that can be cut down to a word or two without losing meaning. For example, “for the purpose of” can be replaced by “for,” and “in order to” can be replaced by “to.”
- Is this language too pretentious? Avoid fluffy or complicated words. This won’t insult your readers’ intelligence, but rather emphasize clarity over formality. Here’s a good list of simple alternatives for complex words.
Really good. These reduce simply to being very considerate of your audience, which is different from pandering to them. Basically, efforts in perception and clarity are efforts to be a truthful and kind communicator.