Do you ever feel like your words get muddled up, lost in translation, or simply don't have the impact you'd hoped for?
Open Strategy Partners Carl, Felicity, Chris, jam, and Christine are here to guide you through one bit of the writing wilderness with the CLEAR editing code. Increase the impact and effectiveness of your writing with this code: Pinpoint generalizations, request specific evidence when describing benefits, and ensure a logical flow in your writing, and other handy tricks :-)
As we move along, we'll also share how our own team navigated the buzzword-infested waters of corporate communication, developing a tongue-in-cheek "BS Bingo" card to keep our language authentic and grounded. More importantly, we'll journey into the heart of a mindful, human-first work culture, highlighting how something as basic as clear communication can have profound effects on your work environment. Whatever your level of experience, you'll walk away from this episode with valuable insights to transform your writing process and create a more positive, engaging workspace. Clarity awaits!
Welcome to the Open Strategy Partners podcast, "Communicate, Connect, Grow!" At Open Strategy Partners, we specialize in strategic product communication. We help you communicate the value of what you do, connect you with the people who need to know about it, and grow.
To get in touch with us, follow what we’re doing, or learn about our Writer Enablement Workshops, you can:
Hi, i'm Carl from OSP and this is Communicate, connect, grow, the OSP podcast. On today's episode, we're talking about being clear in your writing, with the editing code CLEAR, if you want to be a more effective writer, a more transparent editor, develop clear strategic thinking or learn from our network of expert friends and colleagues. That's what we're here for. We divide our episodes across three themes communicate, connect and grow. This is a Communicate episode and we're talking about avoiding vague descriptions of benefits with our editorial code CLEAR. The CLEAR editing code falls into the style and phrasing phase of the editing process and it's about being specific. In our documentation about this code, it says write clearly, avoid vague descriptions of benefits, be as specific as possible.Felicity Brand:
Hi, i'm Felicity Brand. I work as a communications consultant at OSP. I do a lot of writing and a lot of technical editing and I really like talking about writing and editing.Chris Fenwick:
Hi, I'm Chris Fenwick. I'm a copywriter and editor at OSP.Jeffrey A. McGuire:
Hi, this is Jam. I'm a partner at Open Strategy Partners. Most of my day used to be filled with writing and editing and figuring out how to do the best kind of communications for our clients. Nowadays, my responsibilities are slowly but surely shifting elsewhere and we have systems like our writing and editing codes and a fantastic team. That all means that I can trust that we're doing great work helping our clients along the way, even if I am distracted by other shiny things.Christine Buehler:
I'm Christine Bueller. I'm a communications consultant at OSP. That means every day I work on writing landing pages, blog posts, emails and creating communication strategy for our various clients.Felicity Brand:
The editing code. Clear is about being as specific as possible. Clear is one of the five or six C's of technical writing effective writing. You can Google the rest. I think it's clarity clear, correct, concise, complete, concrete, consistent. I got six. Suffice it to say clarity is one of the pillars of effective writing. Being clear in your writing is best practice. What we mean by that is being as specific as possible. Particularly when you're writing about technology, it can be really easy to rely on general statements like cutting edge, best in class. Being clear is about avoiding those vague descriptions. We really want to try and be as specific as possible because it's the quickest path to understanding for your reader.Chris Fenwick:
I think CLEAR could also be called something like specific. Yes, it's true that you can write in a muddled, unclear fashion, but often the source of that is that you're not being concrete or specific enough in what you're talking about.Jeffrey A. McGuire:
Clear is another one of those codes that is deceptively simple. Our internal documentation says quote clear writing. Avoid vague descriptions of benefits. Be as specific as possible, end quote. There is a bit of depth to that.Christine Buehler:
The clear editing code just emphasizes clear writing. Avoid vagueness of pretty much every kind. When it's possible to be specific, be specific.Carl Richards:
As an editor. How would you use this writing code in your workday?Felicity Brand:
When I'm editing for clear, i'll look for generalizations like efficient, streamlined, effective, and I'll ask the author to drill down on those and expand into specific reasons about how the product or the technology achieves the benefits that the author is describing. So we really look out for those kind of extraneous or filler words. When I'm editing, i think most often with this code I'll be asking what are we really trying to say? Let's get to the nuts and bolts, let's get down to brass tacks. With clear, it's also a good opportunity to use our other editing code fact. So you're maybe providing quantitative or qualitative evidence to describe the benefit. Statistics or a quote are always going to carry weight, demonstrate a benefit and help you be specific and clear.Chris Fenwick:
I think it's easier to. It's a thing that's easier to be aware of when you're editing, maybe, than when you're writing, Because often when you're writing, you have in mind as well what it is that you're driving at, But editing you're reading it a bit like a reader as well, And then you'll notice if you just think, okay, this sounds vague, this sounds wishy-washy. It would be much better if they gave a concrete example here.Jeffrey A. McGuire:
And that perfectly ties into a couple of the other codes that we have. So the code system itself. Sometimes it's hard to delineate between concepts because they're you know it makes perfect sense. It's. A great example is clarity is definitely helped if you explain what you mean. If you use an abbreviation or an acronym, right, and we have an actual code for that, which is ACRO. So I noticed that different people have different you know main groups of codes that they use. Like people have selected their own kind of dialect of the thing. But in the end, reading it through, do I follow? Do I have a question that pops into my mind? If a question comes up in my mind when I'm editing something that someone else has written, then I stop and I want to investigate that. Does it need explanation? Does it need more facts? Does it need a link to something? You know that can often help clarity And all the stuff that we always talk about on here. How many pronouns are you using? Is there a logical flow? Is there irrelevant information floating around at a post? All of that contributes to creating clear writing.Christine Buehler:
I am definitely using the clear editing code when I'm looking at a piece of writing. I think it can really help. if you are feeling confused about something, it could be because you maybe don't understand a technical turn of phrase, or it might be because the writing is not clear and there's good reason you don't understand. As an editor, i'm always going through a piece, looking at words and phrases and like asking myself could this be more specific? Do I know what they're referring to? Would the reader know what they're referring to? Would it help to know more here?Carl Richards:
In your draft editing as a writer. Here's how you can explore this code.Felicity Brand:
I think the clear code is really aided at OSP because of our content brief. So, to be clear, you need a strong brief to start with, so one that's going to articulate the reason you're writing, what it's about and who it's targeting. The way you're going to be clear is to understand your target audience, their pain points and your key message. And that's all coming from the brief and that's going to drive your ability to be clear. When you're writing your content, you're really going to empathize with your reader, put yourself in their shoes and think deeply about their challenges, their day, what they're trying to overcome, what they're trying to achieve. And then you think about the product or technology that you're writing about and you describe how its features address those challenges. So you're thinking how is this making someone's day better? How's it making their job easier, how is it making a process faster or cheaper? That is really going to help you cut straight to the heart of the message. So don't be afraid to be too simplistic. You want to achieve clarity And there are ways to come back later and add colour with word choice or maybe the visual presentation, but really it's getting those words nice and clear. So you're kind of speaking directly to the heart of your reader and they can understand your message straightaway. They don't have to work hard to understand it. They can clearly see the benefits of what you're writing about and how it impacts or affects them.Chris Fenwick:
Yes, i think this is quite a difficult one to deal with sometimes, though, because depending on the clients that you're dealing with as well, because, again, the demand is for specificity, and if you're listing, they provide XY solutions for young digital businesses It's one thing just to sort of say e-solutions, and another It's perhaps more transparent to sort of say that they will build web applications or implement front end websites and this sort of thing.Jeffrey A. McGuire:
And would that be as opposed to digital solutions or some vague term like that?Chris Fenwick:
Yeah, exactly, i think it's also kind of easy when you're writing to slip into things that sound good, maybe, but which are not sufficiently specific.Jeffrey A. McGuire:
When we are talking with clients of clients to prepare case studies, for example we're always looking to collect evidence that the projects went well, and we talk a lot internally about quantitative versus qualitative proofs, and a qualitative proof is the team was great to work with. We're doing so much better, we love this And it's great to have a testimonial in there, and I'm a big believer in having the humans really, really present. The quantitative stuff can be super helpful. So here in our definition quote avoid vague descriptions of benefits. I think in a case study it's way more powerful to say increased conversion rate by 7% and monthly visitors from 50,000 to 100,000 or something like that. That's a kind of a B2C case. But numbers, numbers, numbers, engagement metrics or whatever, rather than saying more people came. I mean, maybe that sounds a little bit obvious. The other side of this for me is learning from comedy writing that the more specific you are, the funnier. Something can be like not saying blah, blah, blah tasted like dishwashing detergent, but saying oh, it was like having a mouthful of tide in the US or having a mouthful of Spüli whatever brand of something in German. So I think that being clear and specific, naming technologies, really getting down to the details helps us be clear.Christine Buehler:
Clarity is one of our main pillars at Open Strategy Partners and it is really something we try to make sure we are emphasizing in all of our writing. We are definitely about avoiding marketing hype, hyperbole, exaggeration, just because there's a lot of that in the marketing world And it's one of the ways that we can differ from other agencies. I think we're just cognizant that being specific is just honestly, more helpful to the audience. They came here for specifics. They didn't come here for another best in class or any of the other phrases that are thrown around in marketing, especially because we work with technical clients who are often inclined to be more specific and that's what they want to hear, so that's what we strive to give them.Carl Richards:
As a reader. Here's why this editing code might be really important.Felicity Brand:
Waffles are delicious for breakfast, but not when you're reading a technical piece. No one wants waffle. When I'm reading, my eyes will glaze over If I see blurb for yet another app or product or API. That is reimagining how I work or play. Being able to find out the specific details of how it's going to improve my day is going to help break through those vague benefits and really connect with me as a reader. It shows that the author understands me and my workflow and my problem, And it places the author as a credible voice which is more likely to increase trust and therefore compel me to act. So it makes me feel comfortable and respected. They've done the hard work to make something easy for me to understand by having a really clear message.Jeffrey A. McGuire:
Interestingly if we think about the readers. now we have a concept at OSP that we call authentic communication And we talk about using empathy and clarity to build trust, and the trust building is to get to conversions or sales or whatever. And then empathy and clarity have several different meanings. operationally, very briefly, empathy can be choosing the right language that an audience knows how to deal with, or interviewing a subject matter expert to make sure that you're getting exactly the right details, and clarity Can mean writing clearly, using a good structure on the page, and so on. i think there's this one other example, especially in technology don't write things that are true and don't be afraid to admit Things that you can't do. if you're clear about a capability that you don't have, that might be better than trying to sell vapor, where sometimes i think it's a fine line. our job is to write the most positive, best things For clients, but they have to be true in terms of building trust with someone. if you're clear that and you say we do a bnc really well and we can help you here and we don't do that some of our competitors do, that might help you win someone's trust.Chris Fenwick:
I think for readers it's about reducing frustration with the text again. I mean, i think it may be in two ways. Actually, that can be The case where you're reading something and it does just seem vague and you wonder well, this hasn't told me anything at all. In the other cases, you actually just can't really understand the text at all. If they're talking about, you know, vague but using throwing vague buzzwords around like synergy or whatever. I think there's kind of two ways. There's ones where it's just like the text itself seems just totally like incomprehensible. You can't get hold of anything there. And there are others where it's just like what you sort of wish you You can get hold of enough, but you want a concrete example.Christine Buehler:
The clear code is important to readers for clarity. Like i mentioned before, readers want to know the specifics, and i think it is also another Building block of trust. Like i said before with gram, the clear editing code is another way to build trust with readers, because they can see that you know what you're talking about, you're not trying to just like sell them nonsense, and so they will be more inclined to trust you more, to stay on the page longer, to be more interested in your services or your product. It's just another kind of elemental building block of trust between the reader and the writer or the reader and the company.Carl Richards:
I hope you, dear listener, appreciate the clarity of today's episode. Next time you sit down to write, watch out for filler adjectives and generalizations. Try to get down to specifics to create a quick path to understanding for your reader. Share your examples or questions with us via Twitter at open underscore strategy, or email hello at openstrategypartnerscom. Next time you're writing, be mindful of word choices that contain references to time. Oh, and speaking of time, yesterday I bought six watches. You could say I have a lot of time on my hands. How do you use date in your writing? Share your examples or questions at open underscore strategy, or email hello at openstrategypartnerscom. This was one of the edit codes we use at OSP. If you'd like to learn more in the meantime, come on over to openstrategypartnerscom, have a look on our writer enablement workshop case study offering or get in touch to talk about your strict communication needs. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this podcast All the peas at OSP. Thanks to our clients. Who believes shout out? to Patrick Gaumont for our high energy maple syrup flavored theme music and to Mike Snow for additional horn arrangements for listening and subscribing About our three themes. On the podcast you'll hear different members of the OSP team hosting episodes over time. Communicate all things communication, or how we tackle writing, editing, word choices, formats, processes and more. Connect in depth conversations with interesting, smart people, who they are, what they do and how they approach their life and work as communicators, technologists and leaders grow. Cover approaches to understanding and expressing the value of what you do, including tools, tips and practical. We also feel strongly about building a mindful, positive, human first culture at work. That's bound to pop up from time to time to this podcast is us figuring out communication connection thing together. Subscribe now on YouTube Apple pod, the podcast channel of your choice.Jeffrey A. McGuire:
In such an amazing coincidence, chris, one of the very, very, very early I'm not I don't think it might have been the first presentations that we did as a company, Tracy and I presented a session called Words Matter battling buzzword bingo with smart content strategy and blah, blah blah. But buzzword bingo is something that we really, really try to avoid at OSP, and behind the scenes we have a BS bingo card. I don't think you've seen it yet.