How you use language in your writing can dramatically affect the message that is received by your audience. This is especially true for new visitors to your website that aren’t familiar with your personality. Your likes, dislikes, or even sense of humor can be easily misunderstood if the communication isn’t well thought out.
As an effort to become a better communicator, I thought that I would share with you the thought process that I’m approaching on this, to perhaps help those of you who might be in a similar situation. I figure that I certainly can’t be the only one out there wondering “what am I doing wrong?”.
For a long time, I had thought of myself as a bad writer. I know now that this isn’t exactly true, because writing skills don’t always equate to communication skills. I now understand that although I’m a decent writer, I occasionally, if not often, suffer poor communication.
There are definitely some red flags to watch out for when writing that might tip you off that something isn’t coming through clearly enough, such as having to explain your meaning, possibly several times or more. Or perhaps you have to continually make edits, updates, or new articles dedicated to the clarification of a previous topic. The more often things like this happen, the more alarmed you should be about how effective your communication is. Discussion of a topic is definitely a good thing, but having to re-explain the primary point is bad, because there’s usually very little forward-movement in the conversation.
A failure to communicate can be a failure to connect to your audience, and without any audience connection, you can’t expect people to have any real motive to follow what you do, even if what you do has merit and quality. At least, this is the angle I’m approaching it with, since I’m aware that on a technical level, there’s nothing wrong with what I do, there’s no shortage of imagination, talent, or skill. The breakdown on this site comes completely from a communication standpoint, the fact that there’s not much of an audience that just “connects” with the work that I present. With that said, consider how your audience connects to your own material.
First off, stop telling yourself that you suck. You do it, I know you do because I’ve done it too. Sure, some people really suck at what they do, but not us. No way. You only think that because people just don’t understand you (yet). Unless, of course, you do happen to suck, at which I’ll just back away slowly and go talk to these other people…
Writing (in this context) can be understood as the your “use, and mastery in the structure of language in a non-verbal form”. We all have different levels of mastery when it comes to writing our language clearly and in a concise manner. Maybe we don’t all understand some of the more technical levels of it (I certainly don’t), but being able to grasp the semantics of the sentence should be well within everyone’s grasp. Especially if you have a blog and write regularly.
Communication however, is a bit more obscure. Do we have to have good writing skills to also have good communication skills? Not necessarily. Communication is all about the message. Occasionally, you have examples of writing that are poorly executed, but might be excellent at communicating what they mean. Text-messages and IM’s are a decent example of this. Here’s the one single question you should ask yourself every time you write an article: “How clear is my message?”, you might be surprised that your point has been completely lost in an effort to wrap it in paragraphs of language, like a single Cheerio in that bowl full of milk.
The best environment (imho) to write an article is in a text editor and not in your CMS. Save that text file on your hard drive somewhere, go offline, and take your time with it. Without the clutter of a web interface surrounding a text area, you’ll have better time to think about, and focus on what you’re writing about. Without the temptation to hit the submit button, we allow ourselves more freedom to go back and revise the article until we’re happy with it.
To know when you’ve reached a point where “what you’re saying” is exactly “what you mean” can be measured, is by how well people rally around your point. An audience is usually very polarized. They either completely get what you’ve said and will preach your gospel, or they completely disagree and will destroy mountains to see you fall (maybe). Granted, I’m sort of grabbing at straws here, because I’m not entirely sure if there is a very good method of measuring successful communication. Maybe you’ll have to wing it a bit, but I’m getting the impression that when people don’t “get” you, they just tend to ignore you.
So when you write something next, consider why your writing, and who your writing it to. Think about why you read some of the sites that you subscribe to, what keeps you going back? Why should people come back to you? Consider your message, even more than you consider your words and your design. At least, that’s what I’m going to do more.
And as the communication of the site evolves, you just might find that your layout will evolve right along with it, as you’ll learn that the design and aesthetics can also affect your message.
Copyright ©2023, Anton Peck except where noted otherwise.