Simplicity and clarity: your best-kept secret to engaging content
You can ask ChatGPT to proofread your content and give suggestions on structure
Keeping things simple is one of the hardest things to do. We tend to overcomplicate things, especially when it comes to content.
‘if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough’ (Albert Einstein).
- More is not better. Thinking that ‘more is better’ could originate from wanting to impress and purposefully making things look more complicated than they are. We all know those co-workers or self-proclaimed gurus who love to make the simple complicated.
- Lack of time. ‘If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.’ (Blaise Pascal). Writing something brief and substantial takes more time and thought than producing a longer, less focused piece.
- Lack of knowledge. This refers to the knowledge needed plus the effort and skills to distill complex ideas into clear, concise messaging that’s required to produce clear and impactful content.
The power of simplicity: why it's essential in content
KISS: keep it simple, stupid. Focus on the essentials and avoid overcomplicating things. There are many reasons why simplicity overrules the complex every time. I’ll stick to the ones I think are the most important for content.
- Clarity and simplicity show that you care: use human language and read it out loud. Does it flow?
- Show your expertise and claim leadership; pretend as if you explain it to a 5-year-old
- Accessible and memorable: what you understand is easier to remember
- Adaptable cross-channels and formats, easier to reuse and repurpose: as if you have brand new content
If you follow these basics, the other prerequisites will follow automatically: one topic per content item, human language and tone of voice, and usage of infographics for visual explanation.
Let's dive into this.
1. Clarity and simplicity
Clear and simple content makes it easier to understand and convey your message. Complex ideas or concepts will be lost if not presented in clear human language in a clear, structured way.
- Human language: use the words we use in our daily lives. Write as you speak. My trick is to read it out loud and check the flow. If I stumble or grasp for a breath, it’s not clear and simple enough. No buzz, no fuzz, no jargon. Short sentences and paragraphs with subheaders that indicate what the paragraph is about.
- Structure: build your digital content piece always in this sequence: lead for a strong opening with a summary of the key takeaways, an intro that extends the lead to give some more details, followed by an extended explanation with in-depth details, and last, a summary with repeating the key point of the body. Don’t hassle; don’t mix and try to match paragraphs. My tip is to really stick to this structure to get your message across; as we know, most people only read the lead and the intro and check out the visuals.
The pitfall of using AI
This is also where your AI usage and lack of knowledge and understanding of the topic will be revealed. AI usually doesn’t have a real intro to give context, no point of view to give meaning, and relies heavily on listicles and bullets in long, complicated sentences filled with expensive words. ‘How to recognize ChatGPT copy’
How AI can help to proofread and structurize
That said, AI can help you to optimize your structure. Especially if you have ChatGPT-4 and you use Custom Instructions. I always ask ChatGPT to proofread my content and give suggestions on structure and clarity.
Tip: Use this or a similar prompt: ‘Can you proofread without rewriting or changing the bold and clear tone? Please give suggestions on the structure, subheaders, and header.’ Otherwise, you’ll get a rewrite instead of suggestions you can implement yourself. More on proofreading in ‘How to keep your content authentic in the age of AI’
2. Leadership with clarity: show your expertise
Creating clear, precise, easy-to-understand content about a topic shows that you know what you’re talking about. In other words, ‘if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough’ (Albert Einstein).
You need to have in-depth knowledge and passion for the topic to be able to make the complex understandable. No matter how much ChatGPT and AI you use, if you lack the knowledge and the pleasure in explaining it to others, you’ll never produce content that’s easy to grasp for others.
My trick is to explain the topic to a 5-year-old. If I can’t, I need to do more homework until I can.
3. Accessible and memorable
This lines with the previous point on clarity. A clear and simple content piece with a solid structure is more accessible and engaging for all with varying levels of expertise and knowledge about the topic.
Structure also makes it easier to scan and, therefore, easier to digest.
What you understand well is easier to remember. Simplicity helps you to stand out and make your point.
My tip is if I love the way it looks on a mobile phone, it’s easy to scan with enough subheaders to rest my eye and has some visual sexiness; I did a good job.
Read more about my process and structure in ‘The 7 tips to get content. Fast. My secrets for speedy production revealed’
4. Adaptable cross-channel and formats
If you understand the topic and you’re able to explain it in a simple and clear way, it’s very easy to create content for each and every channel, whether it’s a blog post, a long whitepaper, snackable snippets from that whitepaper, or even an infographic to explain the essence visually.
Next to that, if you stick to simplicity, it’s easy to reuse the content with a slightly different angle, point of view, wording, and visuals. And it looks like you’ve got brand-new content. It takes about seven times that people need to see your content before it sticks.
Never assume everyone has seen your content the first time. And remember that if it’s good, it’s worth repeating.
Simplifying for success, a recap
These are the four key points to keep your content simple and not overcomplicated. Remember, if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.
This is what you need to know and do.
|1. Clarity and simplicity||Easy to understand and engaging through clear language and a structured approach.||Use everyday language and short sentences, and test the flow by reading aloud.|
|2. Claim leadership||Show your knowledge and passion with clear, understandable content.||Explain complex topics as if to a 5-year-old. And AI pitfalls.|
|3. Accessible and memorable||Create content that is easy to digest and remember due to its simplicity and structure.||Ensure it looks good on mobile; use subheaders for easy scanning.|
|4. Adaptable across channels||Simplicity makes content easier to reuse and repurpose.||Never assume everyone has seen your content the first time.|
KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.
Focus on the essentials and avoid overcomplicating things.