Let’s say you have a graduate degree and/or 20 years of experience in your field, and you’re used to speaking or writing for people who are similarly well-informed. Chances are you sometimes find it difficult to translate your knowledge into sentences that engage a lay audience.
But whether you’re writing a newspaper commentary, or speaking into a broadcaster’s microphone, the ability to phrase concepts and issues in ways that the average person can understand is a great asset.
In our writing workshops, we often encourage expert participants to try running a sample of their text through the Gunning Fog Index. The index measures the readability of English writing, estimating the years of formal education somebody needs to understand a text on first reading.
It’s a very useful tool. But here’s another, simpler and more practical approach: When you sit down to put words to the page, start with
“Hi Mom” (or Dad, or Sis)*.
Unless your relative happens to have his or her own PhD in the field, the act of targeting your communication to a real life audience member will force you to find much less formal and more colloquial language.
This advice comes courtesy of the folks at Podium Coaching, and I’m justifying the gratuitous hippo pic because it was the most interesting image that popped up in my google search of “mom”.