Communicating through text is becoming more popular and important all the time. The combination of the internet and mobile devices has unleashed text messages, blogs, tweets and a plethora of longer articles and books all available at the click of a button. All these forms have their own sets of rules for effective communication, from the dense code-like texts where the media dictates short dense messages through the koan-like tweets where your philosophy must be delivered in 140 characters or less and on to the longer, more considered and structured arguments that form the basis of books and articles. They all share the same main goal of communicating effectively.
So what is that? How do I do it? Well, in the spirit of teaching how to suck eggs, here’s my take on this subject for technical blogs.
First off, you need to know what you want to say. Seems obvious right? You’d actually be surprised that this is often the most difficult thing to work out. A one line sentence will do as a start, that’s usually the title of your piece, try putting it at the end (you’ll see this later), this will give you something to work towards – always helpful when you’re faced with a blank piece of paper.
Use simple and effective language. There are many, many guidelines for this, here’s just two of them:
It’s easy when talking about technical issues to resort to technical jargon to get your point across. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but you should always bear in mind that even if your technical audience understands your jargon they may have difficulty translating your jargon laden sentences into something they can understand.
Keep it simple, details are useful but their introduction must be balanced against clarity. If you were writing a whitepaper instead of a blog, consider having a separate box for details so that you can be clear in the main body of the article. Just because you know something doesn’t mean that it is useful to the reader at that point (or even in your article at all, be selective).
Have a start, middle and an end. Start with the situation or context for your subject, this gives your reader an introduction into the piece it tells them why you are writing it and maybe where you are going and why they should read it.Go on to discussing any of the themes raised in the introduction, this is usually where you provide a set of steps to reach your conclusion.
End with a conclusion. Wrap up the piece by returning to the main point, say what you wanted to say and finish. Here’s mine:
So the trick behind communicating effectively is to know what you want to say. Express your ideas with simple and effective language and structure your articles so that they have a start a middle and an end. That way you will have an easier time of writing and your reader will be happier to read you.