Clarity 101: The Missing Ingredient…

Posted in: Wordsmithing | 0
Clarity 101:  The Missing Ingredient…

The other day I came across an interesting recipe in the paper.  One of the ingredients was ‘farro’ and it was mentioned several times.

But what’s farro?   I scanned the recipe again, hoping for a description, or at least a clue.

Nothing.

Reach for Google.  But how many other readers would have bothered to go that extra step – and why should they?

The same goes for abbreviations.  I found an enthusiastic email in my inbox urging me to try a CMS software program that would revolutionize my business.   Maybe everyone online knows about Content Management Systems, but not me  – and I bet I’m not alone. Nowhere was this explained.

Here’s the real message I got from both these experiences:  you’re excluded.  If you don’t know this ingredient, you’re not eligible to try this recipe: and if you don’t know what CMS stands for, well, don’t waste our time.

Potential endorser or client lost.

So it may be stating the obvious, but the old and Golden Rule holds: the first time any new ingredient, concept or abbreviation is mentioned, tell people what it is.  And if it’s mentioned again many paragraphs later, don’t expect your reader to remember.  Why make them work to backtrack?  They might give it up.  Explain again, (gently in parentheses).

You won’t be offending our intelligence; you’ll be respecting our time.

PS I finally found farro on Dave Hanenburg’s Trail and Ultra Running site and he kindly let me use his photo. Check out his site here – and who knew that this protein-packed grain fuelled the Roman Legions as they built their empire?