Originally posted on Deakin University Library’s DigiBytes blog
By Rachel Wilson and Kat Cain of Deakin University, republished with permission from the authors
Decluttering is not just about your digital files, your cutlery cupboard, or your work desk – it also is a handy approach for digital writing. Clutter distracts from the clarity of your writing. Unnecessary words, complicated sentences, and redundancies can all mess up the flow of your writing. Which means your core message or learning point is lost within the word noise.
Decluttering is a great strategy for writing in many different contexts, using plain language in digital spaces like blogs, guides, websites is critical and inclusive. It means your content is readily understandable, scannable, and straightforward. Most of all it makes your content more useful to your learner or reader. Check out this Evolving web post for a good breakdown of why decluttered writing works so well for inclusion and why plain language matters.
Strategies, concepts and tools to help
Here are three key tips that can get you started in decluttering your digital writing. They can help you tighten your prose, your email, or your module text. In fact, these writing skills can be applied everywhere, not just writing web page content.
Tip 1: Consider your audience
Who are you writing for?
- Professional staff
- Researchers and academics
Different reading levels are OK for different audiences. Vocab will change depending on the context.
- Grade 7-8 for your average audience
- Grade 10-12 for experts in your subject matter
Tip 2: Use tools to Marie Kondo your content
Using editing and grammar tools can give you a strong idea on how readable your content is, how clearly your message scans.
- Word Editor – built into Microsoft Word
- Listen to write approach – hear your words spoken and edit accordingly
Tip 3: Keep it clean and uncluttered
There are a number of things you can do to keep your digital page clean. Avoid jargon and go for simpler wording where you can. Also carefully consider image use on your digital page as it can dilute your message. Use headings, lists and ‘calls to action’ to make your content more structured and scannable. Don’t cover too many topics in the same space!
Key take away
Don’t strive for perfection in your digital writing – we love iterative improvements. As Leo Tolstoy said “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content” (Anna Karenina).