Watch Your Language

It’s important to remember that when your write, you’re usually trying to transmit a message. If you use language that readers may find difficult to understand, your message may not get through, leading to ineffective communication.

The “Curse of Knowledge”

Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist, linguist, and best-selling popular science author. In his 2014 English style-guide book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, he defines the above term as what happens when intelligent people write about a topic that they’re very familiar with.

Their writing becomes so deep in their field of expertise that they end up using familiar (to them) jargon, buzzwords, and highfalutin language, forgetting to ask if their target audience will understand what they’re trying to communicate.

Essentially, this ends up splitting their audience into two groups: 1) the “insider” group—those who know what these special words and terms mean; and 2) the rest of the world.

So, the more non-standard, complicated, specialized, industry-specific language you use, the more you’re distancing yourself from a potentially larger group of readers. Your choice of writing style makes them feel ignorant and alienated, because they don’t know what you’re talking about. Some of them may try to translate your work, but many, if not most, people will just give up and set your work aside.

Bottom line

You will have failed to get your key message(s) across.

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