I spotted a James Carville article in the FT.com op/ed (Daddy, tell me, what exactly is a derivative?) this morning that reminded me of how difficult it is to write for the web.
Carville was writing about Obama's "supposed communication breakdown during the financial crisis." Carville says the failure is not in Obama's ability to communicate but in the complexity of what he is trying to explain.
I can definitely relate.
I will never forget what my grizzly, old editor told me when I was interning for a small newspaper in Orange County, "Honey, you gotta write dumber. Most people can't read above a 4th grade level."
Writing dumb may sound easy, but it is not, especially if you are writing about a complex topic.
Granted, in the legal field, I am generally writing to a more sophisticated audience. But I run into another challenge: time.
My readers do not want to pour over paragraphs of analysis. They want to be able to read my story in less than 30 seconds.
So I have to be able to tell my story in a paragraph. And, no, that does not mean a 10-line paragraph. If you look at my writing, most of my paragraphs are only 1-2 sentences long. And my sentences are very short.
Here's another lesson that I learned from another grizzly old guy: look at your sentence and eliminate every fifth word.
Yeah, it is hard to write small. And just like I pointed out in my SEO post: you have 3-4 seconds to get their attention on the web.
So you better engage them fast!