Why the heck do we communicate information? Answer that question correctly and you win. Win your audience, that is.
But waste their time by creating useless, inaccurate, wordy, muddled, ugly, purposeless, and hard-to-find content and you will have bought a ticket to unemployment. So how can you ensure you don’t waste your audience’s time?
Follow these ABCs of good communication:
A is for accuracy – Research every fact and conclusion you make. Rely on SMEs (subject matter experts) and check sources.
B is for brevity – Be brief. Edit ruthlessly. Make every paragraph, every sentence, and every word earn its right to be.
C is for clarity – Eliminate misunderstood words. Write phrases that can be understood by a 5th grade-level reader. (You’re not “dumbing it down.” You’re making sure all levels of readers can get it.) Even the most-educated reader will appreciate not having to re-read something you wrote, just to make heads or tails from it.
D is for design – When a craftsman finds a poorly-designed, hard-to-use tool in their kit, it gets discarded, or ends up at the bottom of their toolkit, abandoned.
When your reader finds a poorly-designed, hard-to-use page, it ends up as un-read, abandoned.
E is for effectiveness – What is the purpose of the material? What’s the reader’s desired goal? What action do you want the reader to take when they’re done reading? Do everything you can to ensure that communication is effective at helping readers achieve that goal, purpose, or action.
F is for findability – Can your reader find it on the site? Can they go back later and find it in archives or history? If so, you succeeded at making the content findable.
How did you title it? Did you use keywords to aid search? Is the page search engine optimized? Are there noticeable signposts, page numbers, indexes, links?
bonus: G is for geewhizdom, something that made you say “geewhiz!”
(This is an update to a previous blog post from 2006, attributed to a great team I was blessed to work with. “the-abcs-of-clear-communication-just-got-a-d”