Do you know this feeling?
You’ve written a good text.
You think it will touch readers’ nerves.
You hoping for response.
But now the text is out…and no response coming.
Wat went wrong?
Well, maybe it wasn’t much.
Maybe you just missed this one little thing…
You probably heard JFK’s call from 1961 to “put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade”?
This message had the power to rally an entire country.
It set a goal.
It was emotional.
And it was simple, so simple that we don’t stop and think how difficult it may have been to come up with.
That’s why I like the alternative version that the Heath brothers give in Made to Stick. It’s this:
“Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives.”
Yes, it’s made up. And, yes, it’s a little exaggerated but, boy, does it sound familiar. I like it so much because it shows how jargon can stand in the way of what we have to say.
Of course, JFK’s version makes the jargon-version look ridiculous. But the truth is that no one is immune to using such language. I mentioned here how breaking away from jargon needs a conscious effort. It was no different for JFK.
Are you in the habit of using bullet points?
If so, you better quit.
Because people don’t remember them.
We don’t hear that often. On the contrary, many people, particularly in the blogging sphere, recommend using them.
Bullet points, so the story goes, are scannable and easy to read.
And yes, they are easy to scan. But what use is that when everyone forgets them?
Test it yourself the next time you come across a list. How many points do you recall when you’re done with the text?
It won’t be many. And that is no coincidence. Our brain isn’t wired to remember them. Read more…
Do you know The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman?
It’s a great book.
Don believes that everyday objects should be easy and intuitive to use.
Many are not and Don has examples. He uses them to show that a good design is no coincidence but a matter of process.
What caught my attention is how similar this is to the process of writing or, more generally, of making ourselves understood.
This is a basic rule for effective communication:
You have to keep your reader in mind.
It sounds simple but it is easy to get wrong.
And the cost for getting it wrong is exuberant: you loose your audience, no matter how favorable it is to your offer.
The latest marketing campaign by my mobile carrier, Mobistar, is a good example for that.
Here’s what happened with the brochure they sent me. Read more…