“Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”
I recently completed the Writing in Plain English course through Lynda and was reminded of the importance of simplicity and clarity when writing, whether an email, an essay, an outreach message or a professional summary. As a career coach, I receive many emails from students and alumni, and often, I am surprised by the amount of words it took to convey a message that could be expressed in a sentence. It’s easy to add words and make a message longer and more complex. That often comes from a desire to explain an idea or thought in detail but the result is almost always the same: the reader is confused about the purpose of the message or annoyed at having to read it.
Bottom line: the more time I have to spend reading your message, the less likely I am to read it or respond.
Now, as a career coach, I do respond to all student emails, clear or otherwise. However, others won’t. To conduct proper industry research, you should reach out to alumni or industry experts for informational interviews. And if you want them to understand and respond to your message, consider the following:
- Make sure it is clear why you are reaching out. The intended reader should know the purpose of your message.
- Once you write your message, read it out loud. Listening to what you’ve written can help you catch issues you will miss otherwise.
- Chop / cut / delete unnecessary words (vague expressions, jargon, GRE vocabulary); the simpler, the better.
- Thank the intended reader! (And handwritten “Thank You” notes, cards, etc. can go a long way!)
In his quote above, Einstein isn’t really talking about writing, but he might as well have. If you can’t explain in plain English what you want, then you probably don’t know what you want and the intended reader won’t know what you want either. Unleash your genius and start writing clearly and concisely.
And if you are a Carey student, be sure to take advantage of the Lynda courses available to you for free.