Jack ‘n Jill: Nursery rhyme teaches simpler writing

By Ron Cooper
The Word Doctor

“Jack, accompanied by Jill, ascended the topographical increase in altitude. Jack became overbalanced and succumbed to the laws of Newtonian physics, incurring severe cerebral trauma.

“Jill likewise descended the topographical phenomenon in a most precipitous manner, sustaining injuries of much less severity.”

We all know the famed nursery rhyme of “Jack n’ Jill” reads quite differently than that. The original is written simply and directly so it can be easily understood.

In much the same way, our writing needs to be simple and direct. Yet, we all fall into the trap of confounding our readers. So what’s a writer to do?

The Word Doctor offers two tips before you send your message:

1. Make a clarity check. Does your writing flow nicely from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph? Do your key messages stand out prominently? Clarity is best achieved through efficient organization. Revise and you will clarify!

2. Make a jargon check. Are you using industry parlance that your non-technical audience may not thoroughly understand? Use a commonplace term instead. Plain English rocks!

Plain language expert Cheryl Stephens advises us not to write as follows:

“To err, whether willfully or through carelessness, is human, whereas, however, to forgive is divine or an approximation thereof.”

Instead, Cheryl says, we should be writing succinctly:

“To err is human, to forgive divine.”

Err on the side of simplicity!!

About Administrator

Ron was an award-winning newspaper journalist during his 25-year career. He worked for community and business publications, including Business First of Louisville. Ron has written more than 5,000 articles for newspapers and magazines. He has ghost-written books and articles for business professionals. Ron has worked as a freelance writer, writing coach and media consultant for the past 13 years. His clients have included corporate and non-profit organizations.
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