Writing for Confusion: How to Avoid It and Improve Clarity in Your Writing
The other day, I was part of a conversation where a friend used the phrase “writing for confusion” to describe a person who intentionally or unintentionally creates content that’s unclear. While there might be folks out there who write this way to promote a sense of “being better than,” I would venture to say that most people, particularly when trying to convey a message, don’t mean to create confusion.
The most challenging aspect of correcting this type of content is recognizing it. Since you’re the one who wrote it, it likely makes sense to you! Thankfully, there are a handful of tools you can use to pinpoint writing that might be confusing.
Ask yourself if you’re doing the following:
Including Too Many or Too Few Details
The Writing Cooperative says, “If it doesn’t contribute anything to your argument or message, take it out without a second thought.” Detail in content writing is a dance. You want to give the reader the information they’re seeking, but you don’t want to bombard them with so much that they feel overwhelmed.
If I’m trying to tell you that my hometown city of Greenville is great, I could just say, “It’s great!” But you probably wouldn’t be convinced – there’s not enough information. On the other hand, I could list out every single attraction in the city, but I will have lost you after the first few because there are just too many and you probably wouldn’t be interested in a lot of them. Instead, I could tell you about Greenville’s thriving downtown and it’s locally owned (and delicious) restaurants, or about the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a biking and walking path that winds through some of the most gorgeous parts of the city. I could also take into account your likes and interests and tailor a custom-made attraction list for you, complete with links should you choose to do more research. These would be more effective content strategies because they would give you important details (but not too many) and point you in the direction of more relevant information.
Using Complicated Sentences
Long, complex sentences in your writing can be hard to follow, which could lead to your reader missing the point or ditching your content completely. An easy way to simplify your writing is by creating shorter sentences. However, there is a place for long sentences, provided that they’re clear. If you only create short sentences, you run the risk of making your content seem choppy and robotic, and nobody wants that. Writer’s Digest mentions that “you must judge how to weave short sentences with longer ones, as well as how to use sentence variety.” Try to plug your longer sentences in with shorter ones so the text is easier to follow. This helps cement your point and educate your reader on what you really want them to know, and it promotes the general flow of your writing.
Favoring “Big, Impressive Words” Over Clear, Concise Words
In relation to the point above, it’s important to write clearly. Many times this is achieved by using words that are simple. This doesn’t mean you can’t use big words. Often, the most exact word might be the more intelligent-sounding choice, but don’t pick those words to show off. Simple words have a more general meaning, which lets your reader take what you’ve given them and apply it to their own needs. If your audience can’t understand your message, then you’ve done a lot of work for nothing. Business writing is different from creative writing. Straightforward is best.
Failing to Organize Your Content Logically
It’s no secret that we live in a world of people who expect immediate gratification. This relates directly to content marketing. When a person clicks on your website, you have a matter of seconds to get them to stay. They’re looking for an answer to their question, and if they can’t find it, they’ll go elsewhere. You want to organize your content in a logical way so your reader can find their answer easily. What information is the most helpful and important? Place that on your homepage with internal links to other areas of the site that provide more in-depth information. It’s also a good idea to include easy-to-read, appealing headers. For me personally, that’s typically how I skim a webpage to find what I’m looking for. Also, try to pair related content together so your reader is more apt to keep going.
As a writer, I know it’s hard to keep it simple with business writing. It’s easy to get carried away and head down the road of (at the risk of me using a “big word”) verboseness. But when you’re writing for an audience in content marketing, it’s important to present your content in a straightforward, organized, and easy-to-read way. Need some more help? Reach out to us!
Caralee Culpepper – Content Creator