Infographic: Crystallizing and demystifying dense data for readers

Be judicious with numbers, tell the story of just one person, and quote only those people who can make things clearer than you can.

A communicator’s most sacred task is translating corporate gobbledygook into plain, clear, winsome language.

Untangling the complex yarns coughed up by aloof CEOs, bookish bean counters and inscrutable execs is no easy task, however.

Here to help writers crystallize complex information is an infographic full of guidance from journalism icon Roy Peter Clark. His 12 tips on “How to make hard facts easy to read,” include:

  • You may wind up with thousands of readers, but begin in your head with just one. You can’t write something that will please and pertain to everyone. Instead, “imagine how you would begin to explain your topic to a single person sitting next to you on a barstool,” Clark writes.
  • One human is more memorable than tons of data. This is just basic psychology. As Mother Teresa put it: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” For more persuasive pieces, tell the searing story of one person. Numbers tend to numb readers’ ability to act or care, so “use as few numbers as will get the job done,” as Clark advises.
  • Quote only those who can make things clearer than you can. You might have to push back on this one. Instead of letting that press release become a bloated quote-a-palooza between competing execs, be selective about who gets the sound bite. No one likes or cares about that token CEO quote, so delete mindless white noise from your copy.
  • Lift the heavy cargo out of the text, and put it into a chart or graphic. If you have a jumble of numbers to present, do your readers a favor by packaging dense data in tidy visuals.

There are many more golden nuggets for writers of all stripes here, so read the rest of the piece for your editorial edification.

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