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The Single Reason Why People Can't Write, According to a Harvard Psychologist

Why we write badly

When we become good at our job or hobby, we use catchwords to shorten long-winded descriptions that we have become very familiar with.

The problem is that these catchwords become automatic. While we think these words would facilitate our communication, we forget that our readers may not understand the concepts behind these shortened words.

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The Single Reason Why People Can't Write, According to a Harvard Psychologist

The Single Reason Why People Can't Write, According to a Harvard Psychologist

https://www.inc.com/glenn-leibowitz/the-single-reason-why-people-cant-write-according-.html

inc.com

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Key Ideas

The root cause of bad writing

The root cause of bad writing is struggling to imagine what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. Whenever writing is loaded with jargon, clichés, technical terms, and abbreviations, two questions come to mind:

  1. What is the writer is trying to say?
  2. How can the writer state those ideas more clearly without using confusing language?

Why we write badly

When we become good at our job or hobby, we use catchwords to shorten long-winded descriptions that we have become very familiar with.

The problem is that these catchwords become automatic. While we think these words would facilitate our communication, we forget that our readers may not understand the concepts behind these shortened words.

How to write clearer

  • A considerate writer will add a few words of explanation to common technical terms, such as Arabidopsis, a flowering mustard plant.
  • Readers will appreciate many examples when you explain an idea..
  • If you write a sentence that makes you pause and think about what it means, assume your readers might react the same way.
  • Before publishing your writing, take a few moments to ensure that what you write is clear and understandable.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Be Visual 

Readers understand and remember material far better when it is expressed in concrete language that allows them to form visual images. So trying to make the reader “see” is a good goal and b...

See The Reader As An Equal

Don't increase the complexity of your vocabulary just to give the impression of intelligence. This actually makes you look stupid.

Treat the reader as an equal. If you’re trying to impress, at best you will make the reader feel dumb. And nobody likes to feel dumb.

The Curse Of Knowledge

Once you know something you assume others do too. It’s human nature. And that leads to bad writing.

'The curse of knowledge' refers to the inability that we all have in imagining what it’s like not to know something that we do know.

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The “curse of knowledge”

It is a cognitive bias that describes the fact that when you know something, it's very difficult to know what it's like not to know it.

The things you know seem so obvious to you and y...

Test out your message

Seek feedback. What it's obvious to you might not be obvious to the others. 

Show your message to other people and have them honestly say how clear it is to them.

Choose your words carefully

Use words that will help people understand what you’re trying to say rather than words that are confusing or distracting.

Avoid using jargon, idioms and obscure metaphors.

2 more ideas

Make The Readers Feel Something

Honesty is the most important ingredient. You don’t have to be or have gone through something to write about it but you must have a heartfelt feeling about it so you can expose that emotion thro...

Structure And Revise

You need to have a beginning that builds to a middle and an ending, or at least an idea of where you’re going, as it is key to explore your themes and foreshadow things properly.

Another important thing is to revise your writings. Your first draft is likely to contain multiple errors, poorly phrased sections, and inconsistencies.

Surprise The Reader

To do it, you must know what your audience expects from the type of writing you’re doing and then defy it.

Without the surprise, without the twist, if you don’t pull the wool over the audience’s eyes, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be memorable. It’s precisely the fact that things are not what they seem that makes a story interesting.

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