Tool #11 Prefer the Simple Over the Technical

Updated: Jan 13

While I am a huge fan of writing complex sentences, I understand that simplicity is bliss in advertising. Roy Peter Clark, in his book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Elements for Every Writer, tells us that there is a term--defamiliarization--"a hopeless word that describes the process by which an author takes the familiar and makes it strange." Film directors use defamiliarization when a camera angle takes on a different point-of-view, such as an up-close distorted angle. Famous authors are good at doing this, too, but their medium is fiction. Ours is marketing, and content writers may unintentionally complicate a topic without adding any value to it.

Content Writers Must Know Their Audience

As content writers, we must know our audience. Legal experts and doctors can get away with a Flesch reading score of 30. Advertisers may not. Clark reminds us that short, concise sentences get the point across. We must "make the strange familiar." So what is the best way to write these sentences? Start with these tips:

Content that is clear sells.

A History Lesson on Words

Why does the simple trump the technical? It boils down to a quick history lesson. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Saxon words became commonplace over Latin and Greek founded words. The latter tend to have more syllables and are longer in general. So instead of saying container, which is three syllables, just say box. Simple enough. Can you think of a complicated word and make it not so hard to understand? Comment below and share your thoughts!

If you need help with word choice, Schedule a Free Consultation with me today!


Clark, R. P. (2008). Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. Columbus, GA: Little, Brown.

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