Powerful Simplicity: Why easy writing is smart

Reading Time: 6 minutes

by Lenna

Hi everyone, I hope 2019 is great for you so far. Things are finally looking up for me all around, alhamdulilah.

I wanted to write a quick, informal post explaining why I write my posts on about a 6th grade level. What prompted me to talk about this is some criticism on Twitter.

This was regarding my post entitled, Why Muslims Need to Restore the Khilafah:

My first thought was that I really need to hire this person to write digital marketing copy for our company. These few words pack a punch.

I didn’t even mention “Christmas trees” in my post. I mentioned the Grinch, but by using this alternative, she implies a Muslims is railing against innocent Christmas trees and invoking fears of Satan.

Next, pow! A double tap.

Hizb ut-Tahir gets a left hook, I get the right: they’re dumb and I’m even dumber.

Well done. But is she right?

Hizb ut-Tahir

This group gets its own section in my post just because they got swept into a swipe at me. I don’t really know a lot about them.

But I do appreciate their work because it’s some of the most approachable stuff you can find about the Khilafah. At least among English-language publications.

I’ve don’t agree with everything they say, but I’ve never been reading along thinking, “wow these guys are intellectually stunted.” Quite the opposite.

So thanks, Hizb ut-Tahir. I appreciate your work. And given the sorts of people who rail against your organization, I’m convinced you must be doing something right. 🙂

Why a 6th Grade Level?

As for my own work, I don’t try to look “intellectual.” This is not an academic blog and I don’t write write posts to fit that model.

My style is simple and easy to read, and that is deliberate. If I have time, I even put my text into an online app that tells me the grade level and attempt to simplify parts that are above grade 6.

This particular post is at Grade 5. Aiming for grade school simplicity does not mean I think my readers are dumb. 🙂

When we write digital marketing copy for ads, we actually should for a 3rd or 4th grade level. It’s about making words digestible.

People are busy these days and flooded with information. They only have so many resources such as time and energy.

My goal is to make things clear, concise, and easy to digest, even if people skim through fairly quickly. If you know how little time the average person devotes to reading posts (everywhere, not just here), you’ll know why!

My Niche

I’m not a scholar and would never pretend to be. But I want to make a difference in the world, so I’ve asked myself what I have to contribute.

For years as part of my job, I summarized information at three levels for the corporate leadership. One elevator pitch, one executive summary, and one in-depth report.

I also used to write “talking points” for social activism, especially on behalf of Palestine. I did this for a number of years.

Between my work experience and hobbies, I have done a lot of distilling, summarizing, and writing. So that comes naturally to me, and it’s really quite useful.

Have you ever seen the example of a simple, everyday process that is unrecognizable without the correct frame? Check it out here, if you like.

Giving people a simple, overarching concept or framework helps the brain organize information. It’s a kind of shortcut. So you’ll see me summarizing things a lot.

The bottom line is that I try to write posts that are quick and easy to read and comprehend.

Appearance

Because my goal is to convey information by the simplest, clearest means, most of my sentences are fairly short. Then I break the sentences up with lots and lots of paragraph breaks.

I do this for several reasons.

First of all, I want a responsive design. Paragraphs that look super short on desktop actually look fairly long on a mobile device. My copy should be easy to read everywhere.

Second, studies show people are attracted or repelled by paragraph structure. Most people are less inclined to read long, daunting paragraphs as opposed to short ones.

Some people even craft their writing so their sentences or paragraphs are not only short but form a wave or zigzag pattern. I don’t invest that kind of time, but the point is that people are attracted to visually simple patterns of writing.

Third, I personally have a visual issue that makes long sentences and paragraphs very difficult for me to read. I sometimes have to copy and paste articles and break them up just to read them so I’m attuned to these kinds of struggles.

My style is meant to accommodate everyone so much as possible.

Other Conventions

Notice that I also will often highlight words or phrases. This is distracting to some people, I know, but it really helps those who like to skim.

Lots of people skim because people just don’t have time to plow through the ocean of information that comes at them every single day. So why not make skimming easy?

I also like to add a lot of pictures to break up and clarify the text. Many times the image is some sort of depiction or metaphor meant to help drive home a point.

Sometimes I spend more time curating and optimizing images for my post than I do writing. I have cut back a little because my SEO tool nags me about adding too many, but I do try to put in at least a few for each post.

I also try to always write a “Conclusion” at the end using that specific word for the subheading. The reason is that people often scroll to the bottom and read the conclusion before deciding if they want to read the rest of the article.

If you doubt this, you can install Hotjar on your own website and see for yourself. It’s a cool tool that shows the scroll patterns of visitors and it’s quite enlightening.

Why I Blog

I’ve asked myself at times why I even blog at all. I’m not trying to gain a huge audience or anything like that.

I was a contributor on a blog with a fairly large community of regulars and it was a lot of work. A small but loyal following would probably suit me better, but I would write even if almost no one ever visited my blog.

There are two things that are most gratifying for me.

The first is just being able to say whatever I want. There are so few spaces in the world where a person can do that!

The second is I hope to help others. Either because something I write resonates, or because the way I explain something clicks.

I want these things for others because I like them so much! I love to read someone else’s work and think, “Yes! that’s exactly how I feel” and perhaps gain some insight.

Even more than that, I love it when someone explains something just so, and a concept snaps into place. Especially if that reassuring snap has previously proven elusive.

If just one person reads something here and really gets something out of it, it’s totally worth investing the time to share.

Conclusion

I’m not trying to impress anyone here with lofty credentials or intellectual prowess. My writing is more like a casual conversation.

If you were ever curious about why my posts look the way the do, now you know. I work in digital marketing, so that bleeds over into my writing here.

If you share some of my interests and like to read things that are approachable and easy to digest, then this blog might be for you.

visitor map
Image: Map of All-Time Visitors to I Can Haz Khilafah?

If not, that’s okay. No need to tweet mean things. 🙂

Just find some place that you like better. For the first time ever, the world really is your oyster.

Everything is at your fingertips, and you can pan for kindred spirits from every corner of the globe.

That’s part of why it’s so fantastic to be alive right now.

Anyway, thank you everyone, for stopping by. I hope this was helpful. Have an awesome day. 🙂

 

 

 

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