It’s the writer’s responsibility

A few years ago, I was approached to edit a report prepared by what turned out to be a decidedly dodgy investment company.

‘At the moment, it’s too easy to understand,’ the CEO told me.  ‘It needs to be more weighty, more, umm, opaque.’

I declined the opportunity to contribute to the ignorance of his ‘investors’.  But it did confirm something which I had long suspected: some writers simply do not want their readers to understand what they are saying.  (If you have ever begun to read the Agreement to which you must agree before you can load a piece of software, you will know what I mean.)

Effective written communication is not just about the writer’s writing.  It also involves the reader’s reading.  If the reader doesn’t take out what the writer thinks he or she has put in, the attempted communication has failed.

And, as much as some writers might like to think otherwise, the responsibility for the communication rests squarely with the writer.  If the intended reader can’t follow what the writer has written – or can’t be bothered reading what the writer has written – it is usually not the fault of the reader.  There is little point in saying ‘Well, it was all in the document’ if the reader finds the document unreadable.

In a recent online discussion, a reader who had had his fingers badly burned by a dodgy fund manager asked ‘the expert’ what he could have done to avoid this happening.  In reply, the expert said that ‘notwithstanding the relevant statutory compliance on the part of the fund manager or any person acting as a duly authorised agent of the fund manager, it is beholden on a person with investible funds ….’

And there was more too.  But, by then, I had fallen asleep.

This entry was posted in Better communication, Clarity, Plain English. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.