Do you ever feel bulled by signs or messages or instructions? I’m sure you know the things I mean – when you go into an office building or to the doctors or somewhere and it’s full of notices telling you what not to do. No eating. No parking. No touching. No talking on the phone. […]
Obfuscation is a good word isn’t it? It means exactly what it sounds like: unintelligible, unclear and hard to understand. And it’s not a word I use very often because I prefer to keep things simple. But I see a lot of documents that are riddled with long words or long sentences and even for someone quite good at reading (that’s me) they can be a bit of a struggle.
There are lots of reasons that incomprehensible copy gets out there. Often it’s because the writer simply hasn’t thought about who they’re writing for or why they’re doing it. Consciously or subconsciously they’re thinking about what they want to say. But what you want to say and what people want to hear or need to know are rarely the same thing. Before you start writing, it’s helpful to understand your reader’s level of awareness or interest, and to be clear about what you want the words to do. Are you telling or selling? Will your readers understand your jargon, your in-jokes or your acronyms? If I’m writing something for general public consumption, I usually aim it at the lowest common denominator and keep it really, really simple.
Obfuscation is a bit more than just being unintelligible. It’s usually deliberate and intended to confuse. And some of those documents I read have an element of this about them too: a bit of pretension, the writer showing off their intellect. Which is nice. If you’re writing a poem laden with symbolism and alliteration and metaphors. But most of the time you don’t want your reader to have to unscramble a code to find out what it is you’re saying. People are pushed for time, pages and sites are pushed for space – just get to the point and get there quick.
Keeping it simple. And short. That’s what we do. If you want some short, simple and exceedingly successful copy to tell your story, get in touch.