The Six Rules of Effective Communications: Rule Four

Writing Dictionary

When approach­ing writ­ing, we fol­low Hake’s six key rules to clear­er, more effec­tive and engag­ing copy. In our last three blogs, we looked at rules num­ber one (know your audi­ence), two (set a clear goal) and three (get­ting the tone right). This week we are look­ing at:

Rule Number Four: Use Clear Words

Jar­gon, tech­ni­cal terms, busi­ness-speak and com­pli­cat­ed words — They alien­ate your audi­ence and turn them off. Read­ers want words they can under­stand and con­tent they can enjoy and this is achieved by words that have a clear mean­ing and speak direct­ly them. 

But That’s Not How We Talk Around Here

Many organ­i­sa­tions oppose plain and straight­for­ward lan­guage. Instead, they favour com­pli­cat­ed and intel­lec­tu­al words that demon­strate edu­ca­tion, stand­ing and impor­tance.  The real­i­ty: these words don’t make you sound impor­tant, they make you sound con­fus­ing. Writ­ing clear­ly does not mean dumb­ing down, it means pleas­ing your audience. 

How To Use Clear Langauge

There are many use­ful tips to help you select real-words instead of com­pli­cat­ed words:

Avoid jargon

If your gran won’t under­stand it then either explain it or don’t use it. Con­sid­er your audi­ence and write for them, not you. Simple. 

Define acronyms

In today’s fast-paced soci­ety, an abbre­vi­a­tion can save you and your read­er time but unless you define the acronym to begin with, your read­ers will be off to Google, where we all know temp­ta­tion is high. 

Use active verbs and avoid abstract nouns

They’re per­son­al, clear and to the point. “I’m writ­ing a blog” is much nicer than “the blog is being written”.

Get to the point, quickly

Long and com­pli­cat­ed copy is bor­ing, imper­son­al and wor­thy of not fin­ish­ing. Just say it. 

A Way With Words would like to apol­o­gise that you have pre­vi­ous­ly had to endure long com­pli­cat­ed copy that you per­ceived to be a waste of your time because it did not get to the point.”


We’re sor­ry bor­ing copy exists.”

Cut out unnec­es­sary words, use head­ings, write in short para­graphs, break up sen­tences and use lists. 

Clearer Communication

Using words that have a clear mean­ing leads to clear, engag­ing and use­ful copy. You want your audi­ence to be read­ing what you have to say, not a dictionary.

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