Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
An online devotional for writers
If I don’t understand a language, I will (appear to) be a foreigner to someone who speaks it, and the one who speaks it will (appear to) be a foreigner to me. (1 Corinthians 14:11, NLT)
How an orchestra rehearsal taught me a valuable lesson about keeping your writing simple.
The conductor glared at me. “Make sure the minim is held its full length – not the length of a crotchet,” he yelled.
Huh? My blank stare communicated confusion. I spoke English, but I had no idea what the maestro was telling me.
I felt humiliated.
More than a dozen years in the classical music world gave me an easy familiarity with its niche lingo. But in this instance, I was an American playing in a British orchestra. The Brits, as I came to find out, used different musical terms than we do across the pond. Even in the close-knit world of classical music, the conductor’s words transformed me from an insider into an outsider.
Fortunately, when my stand partner pointed to a note on the page, I discovered that a “minim” is the British term for what Americans call a half note and a “crotchet” is their word for what Americans call a quarter note.
Niche lingo can be a problem for me as a writer. At issue are not the terms themselves, but their isolating effect on the reader. She becomes a humiliated outsider.
I don’t want to write that way. So by keeping my writing simple and eliminating specialty jargon, I can avoid that problem.
Over time, my British colleagues came to look affectionately at my Yankee language limitations. And I became adept at polite requests for clarification.
But I never forgot the lesson of niche lingo: use it only if you must, or you risk alienating your audience.
Use lingo only if you must, or you risk alienating your audience.
Keep me from alienating my readers. Show me how to keep my writing simple and accessible so they can understand my point.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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