Keeping it simple makes you smarter

Keep it Simple Stupid

Some time ago I had the pleasure of working with an intern called Ben Tasker on the development of a new microsite for a local authority.

One of Ben’s key tasks was to provide all new copy from the site.

As he was relatively new to writing for business I shared some of my favourite copy-writing tips. Top of the list was this one: write to inform rather than impress.

So many people inexperienced in the world of communications try to impress their readers with highfalutin language and officious turns of phrase. They think it makes them look smart.

‘Keep it simple stupid’ is one of the most overused cliches in business (the most overused has to be ‘people are our greatest asset’) . But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

In research conducted by Daniel Oppenheimer, and described in Richard Wiseman’s book 59 Seconds, subjects were asked to assess the intelligence of the writers of a range of passages. He found the use of complex language created a poor impression of the author’s intelligence. Those people who could write simple prose were considered to be significantly smarter.

Interestingly, using a difficult to read font also had a negative impact on the readers’ impression of the authors’ intelligence.

So keep your language and your fonts simple and demonstrate your cleverness through the content.

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