“If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position hire the best writer. It doesn’t matter if the person is marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever, their writing skills will pay off. That’s because being a good writer is about more than writing clear writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate. Writing is making a comeback all over our society… Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.”
I love this quote because it’s so obvious.
And if you’ve ever clicked on an interesting blog title and been disappointed by a tedious diary of “What I did next’, you know exactly what I mean.
You know what it feels like.
We’ve all heard those speakers who use all the industry jargon and b***** words to hypnotise their clients, subordinates or acolytes into submission. Heck, we read their blogs – you know the ones; they’re never short, or concise and are littered with all the latest acronyms and terminology. They might even make up their own words or phrases (what the hell is a ‘human-shaped problem’?)
They’re a demonstration of power and knowledge, screaming “Look at me, I know all these big words and I can string them together in really long and complicated sentences. Aren’t I clever?”
They chatter on and on, boring us with their opinions and experiences, blind to the reaction of their listeners or readers. They go way beyond the point that most ordinary mortals get bored at – by the way, that’s usually about one page of A4.
Reading one of these blogs is like being hypnotised. Or maybe even paralysed by an endless list of words. Anybody spring to mind?
That’s why clear writing can be so refreshing.
It appeals to the oldest part of our brain – the reptilian part that’s not interested in higher order thinking, logical reasoning, or even being nice to each other. It’s only interested in quick and speedy survival. So although the more evolved part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, might relish civilised conversation, the oldest part of your brain might be screaming “I’m a reptile, get me out of here”.
You see our lizard brain detects negative information faster than positive, and when it senses things that aren’t familiar (like acronyms, gobbledegook and jargon), then it instigates one of 3 reactions – freeze, fight or flight. So what do you do if you can’t fight or take flight? Or if your very enlightened, social and rational brain is whispering “If you don’t read this article or listen to this very important speaker you might miss something crucial the rest of the herd is benefitting from”? You freeze – you sit through it.
Clear thinking means safety. Clear thinkers get straight to the point – they don’t waste time on detours or distractions, they know what’s important. They won’t waste time or resources.
Imagine your tribe in prehistoric times, happily pottering about in the forest, doing a bit of hunting and gathering. As the summer ends, food is becoming scarce, you look to your tribal leader. If they’re a clear thinker they find a solution, maybe leading you to a more abundant area. If they’re not, you might all starve while you wait around for some sort of guidance, or while he takes you the scenic route to the new hunting ground. Clear thinking appeals to our most basic instincts – survival.
So when you write a blog, a magazine article, or a report, think about your readers. Look at them, look into them. What do they really need from you?
And I’ll be taking Jason Fried’s advice; the next time I’m thinking of working with someone new, I’ll be reading some blogs as well as some résumés