“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” – Pete Seeger
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Issue 48   February, 2017

Use expressive writing to explain complex ideas

Dear <<First Name>>,

Humans are funny creatures. We’ll binge-watch hours of TV episodes or movies, yet barely tolerate a fraction of a second for a web page to load.

That means you need a shortcut to meaning if you’re explaining something complex or unusual. Seth Godin says the best way to convey a complex idea is to “find it living Complex ideas like nesting dollsinside something else you already understand.” From there, you say, “This” is like “that.”

Here are some great examples:

The distinction between the terms content strategy and content marketing strategy “is best explained with a Russian doll: a smaller strategy is inside a larger one. In this case, content marketing strategy is the smaller strategy inside the larger one, content strategy.”
- Demian Farnworth for Copyblogger

“In two swift movements, the [chameleon]’s tongue shoots out of its mouth with an acceleration 100 times greater than the best Formula 1 car, snags its prey, then zips back into the mouth just as fast. ‘It’s the equivalent of a human eating a 25-pound hamburger, and then having to transport that burger to your mouth using only your tongue…’”
Sarah Kaplan in The Washington Post

“If you are interested in feeling the way you might have after gorging on funnel cake, ice cream and caramel apples at the state fair when you were 13, the Junk Food Sampler may be for you. This isn’t a dessert; it’s a diabetic coma on a plate.”
Jonathan Gold in the LA Weekly, shared by Ann Wylie

“What started as a simple [software] program…has morphed into a much larger program… At times, it can feel like a building that’s being repeatedly expanded and renovated in a new architectural style every time. Or, as [designer John] Underkoffler puts it, ‘It started out as a charming bungalow. Now it’s got turrets, a garage for a Zamboni and a helipad on the top.’”
Hayley Tsukayama, The Washington Post

“And that’s nothing compared to the indignities to which scientists have subjected [tardigrades]: starving them, squishing them, burning them, blasting them with radiation, drying them out and then rehydrating them like a packet of ramen noodles…”
Sarah Kaplan in the Toronto Star

What expressive writing have you seen lately? Hit "reply" and tell me about it! And let me know if you need help crafting your own expressive writing.
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Freelance writer Sue HornerMay I help you?
Many of my clients are overworked corporate communicators who appreciate a writer who provides clear, friendly and readable copy. I simplify the complex, uncover “what’s in it for me?” and find the human angle in just about any story. Contact me and let’s chat about how I can take some pressure off your day.

Russian nesting dolls from Pixabay. Sue's photo: Rob Jeanveau of IABC/Golden Horseshoe.


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