Tuesday, March 20, 2012


CONTEXT IS BETTER THAN MORE TEXT. It used to be said that “information is power.” Now that we’re deluged with more information (reports, articles, proposals, documents of all sorts) than we can ever practically assimilate, what matters more is effective quality control.

For a piece of information to “break through the clutter” competing for readers’ limited attention, the essence of its message must be presented simply and with context.

Ironically, two of the most complex thinkers in history preached simplicity. Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Steve Jobs’ fundamental principle of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” was elaborated upon by his lead designer Jonathan Ive, who said, “You have to understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”

Einstein also taught us mathematically that what we observe depends on where we stand in space and time. In earthly terms, context defines the relativity and relevance within the expression of ideas, commentaries, advertising ... all attempts at persuasion.

There is a stronger than ever case to be made for simple, traditional journalistic writing; highlighting the key points in the first paragraph -- the who, what, when where ... and why -- and then including the rest of the text in descending order of importance (in an inverted pyramid). This respects the readers’ judgment to decide whether the information is worth the time, and demonstrates the writers’ confidence that it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment