Sometimes Simple Is All You Need

Checking out a book

Checking out a book (Photo credit: UBC Library)

The blogosphere is littered with posts about how content is king and how we all need to work hard to create great “titles and tags” that will “attract eyeballs.”

All of that may be true but those people are missing the boat here because what you need to do is learn how to tell a “simple” story that has a beginning, middle and an end.

Really, it is that easy. If you are selling a product/service tell the reader what the features, functions and benefits are in terms that are easy to understand.

Or if you are not selling anything and are just trying to convince people to read your words you can still use the simple formula.

Beginning, Middle and End

Blame my ire upon the writers of the &$^&%^$%T information I was forced to read 17 times. Ok, I didn’t read it 17 times but it took me a solid three to be confident that I understood what they were saying .

Most people won’t stick around that long, but I did because I had to.

Writers never want to hear stories about people having to force themselves to read their work.

But for some reason some of them think the only way to write is to populate their work with vocabulary words that you don’t often use in daily parlance. It is a good way to try and impress your English teacher and an even better way to chase away readers.

Simple Works

Many readers won’t be willing to take time to look up words they don’t understand so unless they have to read and understand what you are writing they will probably point and click their way to the next page.

Simple doesn’t mean you are talking down to others or that you are trying to speak to the “stupid people.” Simple can be elegant and eloquent.

What it really means is that you care enough about the reader to help them maximize their time.

Good things come from that. If you provide useful content that is easily understood and simple to read you will find your pageviews and backlinks increase.

Your readers will be more willing to recommend that their friends/colleagues read your work too.

What do you think?

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  1. Tim Bonner February 1, 2013 at 4:39 am

    Hey Josh

    Keeping things simple is so much more powerful than making things complicated.

    KISS (Keep it simple stupid) was drummed into me when I worked in the pensions industry. No jargon or complicated words because it just makes more work for you when people don’t understand.

  2. Mary Stephenson January 31, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Hi Josh

    Having a word or two that people have never heard before is okay if it is peppered with enough content that they really don’t need to look up the word to understand what it means. I think we have all read stuff at times with not knowing the true meaning of a word does not side track from the whole meaning.

    Most people would be bored silly with an article full of words that they had no idea what they meant. Nobody wants to feel like they lack a good education, but when the writing is done in such away that it leaves most readers in the dust, it is just plain degrading. I have started to read some stuff and soon realize I am totally in the dark with what they are trying to say.

    Awhile back I got some paperwork from the courts with the final findings on a claim that I had filed. It took us a total of 5 readings to figure out what the outcome was. It was good and in my favor, but it was sure hard to decipher that with what was wrote. Simple, simple, simple please!


    • Josh January 31, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      Hi Mary, I love words and I enjoy expanding my vocabulary so I don’t mind looking up the occasional word, but anymore that is just irritating.

      It ruins the flow of the piece and that’s just seems pointless to me.

      Legal documents are famous for being convoluted pieces of gibberish.

  3. Chris Edgar January 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I think this in keeping with the transformation that my writing has undergone over the past few years — I used to communicate in a way I thought would cause me to look special, because I thought I needed to stand out, but now I have become more able to trust that my uniqueness will naturally shine through and not try to force people to see it, and that is more relaxing for me and I think for people who read my writing as well.

    • Josh January 31, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      Hi Chris,

      That makes sense to me. When we blog we have the opportunity to “write as we speak” and that helps people gain a different sort of sense of who we are. I think it helps our voice come through and builds connections.

  4. Lori Gosselin January 30, 2013 at 8:36 am

    I’m all for simple. If you can’t say it in fewer words, you really don’t understand it. (Read: know what you’re saying 😉 I know I’m preaching to the choir here. You leave some of the shortest comments at LFI.
    You’re right though, people just want to hear the story!

  5. Kumar January 29, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Josh, For this I would say, simple is beautiful for me. I have gone through many blogs where I need to scratch my head or refer to Webster or Oxford which unwillingly I have to.

  6. Brian Meeks January 29, 2013 at 12:08 am

    I agree.

    That being said, my current novel is filled with all the colorful words I adore. I’ve created a character who’s love of language is part of his makeup. Of course, you are right, most people won’t look up words they don’t understand. I’m probably chasing off a few readers, but I’m making myself happy, and that must count for something.

    • Josh January 29, 2013 at 11:20 pm

      Hi Brian,

      Well that sounds reasonable and sensible to me. A character can speak however “they” choose and that works because it is who they are, but a writer who isn’t trying to be a character is different.

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