Years ago, a local ad agency handed out little buttons that read “Eschew Obfuscation” to pitch their creative services. Eschew Obfuscation means avoid confusion. This button remains one of my favorite business promotional items because those two words together capture the essence of good writing. If I had been in the market for an ad agency, I would have hired them on the spot.
Those of us who write for a living – actually, those of us who write anything, period – can fall victim to filling scripts or presentations or e-mails with clutter words in an attempt to sound more authoritative or wittier. Readers or viewers get bogged down searching for the message in the quagmire of unnecessary descriptive terms. You lose them and you don’t achieve your project’s mission.
I’m asked what I do to shift between writing for different media or for different audiences. There are cardinal rules, such as knowing your audience, identifying the objectives of the work and using those objectives to meet the end goal. Right up there is also writing to make each sentence count. This is the case no matter what I’m writing.
Someone even asked me “how do you write for millennials?” as if there had been a generational evolution in comprehension I might have missed. I had to look up how because quite honestly, I did not know the answer. Turns out I’ve been doing it all along: No matter what the audience demographic, people crave clarity.
Whether for a video production or corporate event production, using crisp, clean and precise language is my goal with every script I write. It is okay to get illustrative – when it appropriately adds personality or color to the piece. I self-edit and I also have others provide feedback, which reminds me not to fall in love with my words. I’m not writing for me.
A lexical fact: The average active vocabulary of an adult English speaker is around 20,000 words. Promise yourself not to use them all in the same work. When writing, use words sparingly and judiciously. Eschew obfuscation. Get it? You will. And so will your audience, quite clearly.