To enlighten your audience, use a clear message

To enlighten your audience, use a clear message

Your message is probably unclear to someone in your audience

A great message reflects a deep understanding of the people in your audience. The better you know the people in your audience, the easier it is to write well for them. You can literally speak your audience’s language.

But chances are that your message sails right over the heads of certain people in your target audience, who find the message unclear.

How do messages get muddled? 

how to messages get muddled?
While your message may be clear to you, it gets less clear as it’s passed along. The kids’ game of telephone shows how messages unravel as they’re shared.

Sometimes, your message can get lost on its way to your audience. Why?

  • Because your audience may include newbies, who haven’t learned the industry’s jargon and acronyms yet. Make sure you define all jargon and acronyms the first time you use them. Better yet, avoid jargon and acronyms altogether.
  • Because you didn’t use the language of your audience and decision-makers. Forrester found that only one out of four marketers takes the time to learn their audience’s language. This means that most marketing messages are written in a language that’s unfamiliar to the audience.
  • Because you suffer from the Curse of Knowledge, the inability to explain a topic in plain words to a nonexpert. The more of an expert you are in your field, the harder it is for you to detect and overcome this curse. But here’s how.
  • Because your audience includes people who learned English as a second language. To reach them, use simple, global English from the Voice of America’s simplified vocabulary.
Simplified English reaches more people around the world
Use simplified English to reach a global audience.

Know your audience and use their words

Should a doctor tell the family that their loved one had a myocardial infarction?

Or a heart attack?

Keep this example in mind. It will help you make better word choices.

Make your text easy to read

Most content is delivered as text. Here’s how to make it easier for readers:

  • Use simple words that everyone understands. As Winston Churchill said, “Short words are best, and old words are best of all.”
  • Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs to maximize the readability of your text. The easier your text is to read, the bigger your audience will be.
  • Make your text easy to skim. Write in short paragraphs with lots of white space. Avoid long, monolithic paragraphs.
  • Avoid negative words like no, never, nothing, don’t, won’t, and can’t. Why? Because negative words interrupt the normal functioning of people’s brains. These words impair logic, reason, language processing, and communication, a psychology study found.

Help audiences see what you say: paint word pictures

paint word pictures to make your message clear
Use concrete nouns and active verbs to paint word pictures.

Paint pictures in people’s minds by using concrete words and active verbs. These words help people see a picture of what you say.

The best messages paint sensory pictures in the minds of your audience. Explore all the senses as you write. Sensory language affects humans emotionally.

  • I see an avalanche of work headed our way.
  • That smells like a baby’s poopy diaper.
  • There’s so much static, I can’t hear the music!

People recognize concrete words faster and remember them better. Neuroscientists call this response “dual coding.”

When you paint word pictures with your message, you activate two semantic networks in people’s brains – boosting their comprehension and recall.

That’s how you can make sure your message is clear enough to get remembered.

Turn numbers into pictures

Do numbers in content marketing confuse or lose your audience? 
You can make numbers easier for people to understand with a few simple tips.

Many people struggle to understand numbers, especially percentages and fractions. Turn numbers into pictures or stories whenever possible.

For example, instead of saying “28% of marketers,” say “one out of four marketers.”

Don’t assume people can calculate fractions. For example, when McDonalds introduced the Quarter-Pounder, A&W launched a 1/3-pound burger. But it failed because many customers thought 1/3 was smaller than 1/4.

Never make audiences do their own calculations.

Here are ideas to make numbers even clearer in your content.

Use our 10-point checklist to make your message even more clear  

Make your message much clearer with this handy checklist:

  • Overcome the Curse of Knowledge.
  • Learn the language of your audience and decision-makers.
  • Define acronyms and jargon on first use.
  • Use simple words and global English to include people who learned English as a second language.
  • Choose simple words everyone understands.
  • Make words, sentences, and paragraphs short to maximize readability.
  • Make it easy to skim.
  • Use positive words.
  • Choose concrete words, active verbs, and sensory language to paint pictures in people’s brains.
  • Turn numbers into pictures whenever possible.

We specialize in helping you make your message clear, concise, consistent, and compelling. With a Message Map, you see what to say so you say what you mean — in a way that your audience understands every time.