Writers: Resist the urge to ‘dumb down’ your content

Don’t write for sixth-graders (unless your readers are sixth-graders). Instead meet your audience on their level. Here are seven tips to help.

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Writing myths are everywhere. In my 14-plus years as a writer and editor, I have heard everything from “good writers don’t need to be edited” to “you shouldn’t sit down to write until you know exactly what you want to say.”

The myth that I find the most misguided: Writers should “dumb down” their content so everyone, everywhere can read it.

Pure fiction!

The first rule of writing is to write for your audience. Take their current level of knowledge into account, and use language they know and feel comfortable with. Don’t write for sixth-graders if your audience comprises physicians, small-business owners, or individuals with limited English proficiency. Write for sixth-graders if your audience is sixth-graders.

To write with your audience in mind, consider the following:

Identify your audience

First step is to make sure you know your audience. Don’t guess or assume. Ask yourself: Who is my audience? What does my audience already know about the subject? What does my audience need to know? What questions will my audience have?

Consider the format

Will your audience be reading your article in a printed newsletter or on a smartphone? Is it for an HTML newsletter or a blog. Format matters.

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