Tips to simplify and effectively communicate complex ideas

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 24/05/2015

It’s every writer’s dream to be able to produce sentences that simplify complex ideas in this manner. But how do you get to the essence of what you are trying to say, so that you can encapsulate it in a simple form?

Here are some communication tips to help you simplify complexity, a skill useful in all forms of communication – including the preparation of tender responses.

What is it you want to communicate?

Good writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it is always aware of its purpose. Purpose doesn’t just mean the information that needs to be communicated, it covers:

  • Facts – the information you want to convey, either to inform or persuade.
  • Veracity – what evidence you have that what you say is true.
  • Audience – the people receiving the information.
  • Language and style – the way in which you express yourself.

Facts – what they are and where to find them

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a fact is “a thing that is known or proved to be true.” Part of a writer’s skill, when it comes to technical writing such as a tender response, is to be able to differentiate between opinions and facts.

For example, we may accept it as true when a business states that “our products have been mentioned on Facebook as extremely reliable.”

But how much weight does that statement carry? Can the business really claim Facebook posts as a ‘fact’ that proves their products are reliable?

To make a factual statement about reliability takes an investment of time and money. First of all, the business would have to establish what ‘reliable’ means for their products. Does it mean that they never break? That they last at least one day beyond the warranty? The business would then have to generate data that tested the products scientifically and showed they were reliable under the chosen definition.

Put simply, facts are the product of scientific trials or research, and can take a lot of effort to establish. Many organisations make writers pay to access their research results, because they know how valuable facts are.

Writers who recognise a fact from hearsay will find they quickly win the trust of their audience.

Veracity – can you prove your facts?

Let’s say a website claims that 90% of the AC677 air-conditioning systems last more than ten years.

A business bidding for an air-conditioning contract decides to include this important fact in its tender. A week later, the organisation that issued the tender requests proof of the claim.

It’s at this point that the person who sourced the fact admits he got it off a retailer’s website and that it’s based on anecdotal evidence from the retailer’s repairman.

So, this ‘fact’ about the air-con’s reliability is not good enough to include in a tender bid. You must track down a fact to its source and make sure it’s based on reliable data. Always being able to prove you are right is important for building your reputation.

Audience – knowing what your reader knows

Motivational speakers often meet with members of the audience beforehand to find out what issues are currently of concern to them. These issues can then be incorporated into the presentation, creating in the audience an instant feeling of connection with the speaker.

Knowing your audience means you have an idea of what their concerns are. In the case of a tender bid, this means you can address the immediate concerns of the organisation issuing the tender, establishing a rapport with them and increasing your chances of success.

Language – lose the jargon where possible

We tend to learn best when we are interested in something. But being interested in something means that we know a lot about that subject. Sometimes we know so much that we lapse into jargon, taking it for granted that people understand the terms we use.

If you want to say that your electrical device is better than others because it includes a pure sine wave inverter, pare that down to its essence.

If you say the output waveform is <3%THD with a standby current of 0.3A, you may lose some readers. Instead, say that a pure sine wave inverter smooths out electricity flow for sensitive electronic devices like medical equipment. You can include technical specifications in another part of the tender.

Writing simply is difficulty, but it’s also true that writing is really re-writing. The best writers will produce at least two drafts of their work, often three. Each time you revisit it, you will find further ways to tighten the structure, simplify a meaning or include a definition.

But like any other profession, it’s constant practice that makes a writer able to communicate complex ideas with a clarity of precision.

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