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Keep it simple!

Updated: Dec 4, 2019

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Do you like writing long words and complicated sentences? And do you think if you do that, you’ll come across as more credible and intelligent? I want to argue to you, that you won’t.

Let me just read something to you. “This requires a commitment to the provision of adequate data so that informed evaluation can occur. There must be a commitment to the provision of statistical information that will facilitate effective monitoring and evaluation strategies and a commitment to the implementation of changes that are identified as necessary following evaluation.”

Now if you’re like me, you would have probably had to have read that two or three times, or have had it read to you two or three times, to really find out what’s going on. And that means you will have had to use your system 2 thinking brain—in other words you will have had to really concentrate.

I’m arguing that, in fact, it’s far better for readers to just use their system 1 brain—in other words that you use words and language that they can so easily pick up. And actually what that does is it adds to your credibility and your intelligence.

And that’s very much backed up by some experiments done in 2005 by a guy called Oppenheimer in the States. And what he did is he investigated a whole lot of different writing samples and got the reaction from readers. And the results were overwhelming. When people wrote complicated, difficult sentences and used difficult vocabulary, readers actually thought the writers were unintelligent and didn’t have credibility.

But I don’t think that’s what a lot of people really think. Because guess what? They think the opposite. But I think the evidence is overwhelming. Why do you want your readers to have to work so hard? Just give them a system 1 sentence. Simple and straightforward.

So let’s just go back to that paragraph that we looked at earlier. Do you know what I think they’re really saying? Is that if we’re going to actually use evaluation properly, our statistics need to be accurate, because if they’re not what’s the point in evaluating? Because what we really want to do is make some decent change. Would’ve been quite good if they’d actually said that first time around.

So just remember; why do you want your readers to use their system 2 brain when all they really need is to use their easy, straightforward system 1? Just write simply.


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