Without disclaimer or apology

Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

Brene Brown says this in her book on leadership, “Dare to Lead”. I’ve found the words comforting and challenging in equal measure.

I know how to be clear

Part of my work is writing marketing copy. It’s commonly known among copywriters that you should write marketing copy at a fifth grade level, even though the average population reads higher than that. This is because people aren’t reading a website the same way they read a book.

It means writing clearly and directly with as few qualifiers as possible.

It’s a good habit for the work I do and it has proven useful in the other areas of life that it has crept into.

I am not always clear

I’m starting to notice than when I write as myself or when I speak, much of that clarity and directness drops away.

I’m often tempted to obscure a direct request or statement.

I say “if such-and-such were the case, then…” or “sorry” or “you might want to consider” or “at least for me, anyway”. I argue my point as if I were speaking first in a debate, as if someone were applying forensics to my wording.

It leads me to wonder what it might be like to state something without disclaimer or apology.

(Warning: incoming disclaimer)

I don’t know that it’s useful in all contexts, but I’d love to have it available when I want it.

The clarity protocol

I wrote up a little protocol for when I want to check myself for clarity. Maybe it’s useful to you too:

  • Is there an if statement? Do you need an if statement or would it make sense without it?
  • Did you say might, may, or maybe? Could you write it without these words?
  • Is it a question worded like a statement? Change it into a question.
  • Are you covering an exception? What’s the purpose of this? How can you do this thoughtfully to fulfil that purpose (and is it a worthy purpose)?
  • Did you use the word because or are you adding justification? Is that necessary?
  • What do I want to say? Have I said it?
  • What’s in it for them?

(Thanks to Lisa McMaster for contributing the last two bullet points)

I think that all I’m trying to do is protect myself from being misunderstood and protect others from feeling misunderstood. I think the more useful path is–rather than dressing everything up in more words–trusting that people will start a discussion with me if something is important enough to them and unclear or frictionful.

Is this something you face too? Let me know if something is unclear or frictionful 🙃 and if you’d add anything to my bullet points.