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Want me to care? Then explain it to me like you want me to care

Posted on 24 May 2013

In Calgary, there’s a movement to force city hall to use plain language when communicating with the public. It comes from Alderman Druh Farrel, who notes “the type of language currently being used can be overly technical, ambiguous, confusing and isolating.”

I’ve shared Dave Meslin’s Ted Talk “The Antitode to Apathy” before. In it he calls the use of technical jargon “intentional exclusion” and makes the same argument as Druh Farrel- if we want people to care, we need to talk to them in a way that makes it easy for them to hear us.

I don’t know that it’s intentional, but it is pervasive. As people move into academic and professional worlds they adapt to the language surrounding them. It took me three years to unlearn academic writing and to start being able to communicate in the clear, concise manner needed for radio. Here on my blog I still often fight (or fail to fight) the urge to use run-on sentences and needlessly flashy language.

Here are some rules for radio writing that I try to follow:

We do this in radio for a simple reason: we want people to care what we’re talking about. I wish more professions had the same approach, particularly in the world of public relations. You’re competing for attention- why make it easy to be tuned out?  It’s not dumbing-down.  It’s explaining things like you actually want people to care.

See also:

Say Less

Why you shouldn’t put your press release in an attachment

Email Subject Lines: Get to the Subject

I am not a writer




Filed under: journalism, writing

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