Simple Wins

July 2nd, 2007

Let me introduce your to the overloaded intro.

“Slim, blue-eyed, blonde-haired Oxford-educated former finishing school head girl Judy Stimpsonade-Smoth, 32, today won the coveted pinnacle prize of the book-keeping profession, the Snodgrass Trophy, named after Charles H. Snodgrass — who, single-handedly, on April 3, 1896, at 4.14pm in the afternoon, made a discovery that would change the vital, yet overlooked profession of book-keeping from an eccentric past-time into a much-needed profession among companies with turnovers in excess of £200 per annum or 10 per cent per month (whichever is greater) forever — and thereby becomes the first woman under 45 to win the prize, given annually to members and associate members of the Book-Keepers and Watchmakers Provident Association since 1919, except for a break of three years during the First World War which was a conflict between opposing European superpowers in the early years of the 20th Century.”

Okay, so this is also an example of hyperbole. I’ve never seen anything that bad either, but you get the point.

The overloaded intro puts too many facts into the opening of a story on the basis that readers often don’t get past the first paragraph. Yet some people take this a stage further by overloading the entire story.

So remember your poor reader. Make it simple, if you can: it will be faster to write AND faster to read. It will be easier to understand too and above all, nicer to read.

Of course, the main danger of going simple is in diluting content so much that the point disappears completely; however, writing simply is by no means an easy way out: like any magic trick, it only looks easy because you’ve put in a lot of work.

And be careful to write to the ability of your intended audience: after all, if your site is meant to appeal to health professionals, don’t write as if they were all five years old (pediatricians may be an exception in this case) .

You can gain some idea of how understandable your prose is by using one of the readability tools on this site.



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