Why don't people read my answers
Why people are NOT too stupid to read
A plea for more self-criticism in everyday life
I come across this topic regularly, be it in my seminars or in conversation with friends. Maybe it sounds familiar to you: you write something and those who are supposed to read it just don't understand it. They don't answer, don't do what they're supposed to, and so on. The first reaction from many: "Yes, are they too stupid to read that correctly?" Why that is often not the case and why you may have to touch your own nose.
How often do I hear this sentence: “People are just too stupid to read.” It's all about texts of any kind. E-mails to colleagues, announcements on the website, tenders for service providers. Each time people formulated something for a certain target group and each time the desired result did not come about - no answer, wrong documents, missing documents.
And who was to blame: the reader.
Of course not the person who wrote it.
Because, of course, the text was so understandable in any case that even a school child could have understood it. And anyway, people are getting more and more stupid. What could have been misunderstood about the text / the mail / etc.?
The statement is like this every time.
"Maybe the text was just bad?"
And every time I get puzzled faces with my answer. It says:
"Maybe the text was just bad?"
That usually sits down first. And I am allowed to explain myself every time. I like to do that. Because it annoys me - to put it mildly - that it is always the other's fault if a text is not understood correctly.
I mean seriously? Are we all free of mistakes and so gifted scribes who write great texts that everyone understands immediately? The emphasis is on SOFORT understands.
It is not the reader's responsibility, but the sender!
When I write an email and don't get the answer I wanted, I always grab my own nose first and ask myself why they might have misunderstood and what could have been written better.
It bothers me that the recipient should always be the one who has to interpret lines that may be misleading - and then interpret them as the sender intended.
Because that is exactly the point: very often texts are not unambiguous and leave room for maneuver. Or are written so nested that you have to read it several times and not filter out exactly the information that was essential for the sender.
What questions to ask yourself before writing
Nobody has the time or inclination to read texts twice or three times!
Who is in the mood for it? Let alone: who has the time for this in a world where emails and messages are beating down on us? How can I seriously ask, if I want something from someone, that they interpret my lines? Personally, I think that's a cheek.
It is not at all a shame if, for example, an e-mail contains a skip or is worded lengthy and convoluted. Many find it difficult to express themselves succinctly (this is one of the most common reasons why people come to my seminars). But then to think that your own handicap is not the cause, but that the other person is too stupid to read it correctly - that is not possible in my eyes.
In my seminars there are often brilliant aha moments when we work out the basic rules for reader-friendly texts or when I explain how a writing process works. Often participants tell me directly in the seminar “I wouldn't write it like this anymore” when they are working on their text in the exercise.
This is how you get to the point - three tips on how you can formulate really aptly from now on
Claim vs. self-interest
“I still have a little claim to people” comes up at least as often in the discussion about the oh-so-stupid readers. People can still be expected to be able to grasp complicated texts. You can do that too.
But not when it comes to "usage texts" such as e-mails are, for example. If I want someone to do something, then it's my responsibility to make it as easy as possible for them to grasp - after all, I am the one who wants something from them. I cut myself into my own flesh when the recipient doesn't understand it just because I claim that they understand my complex sentences.
Diagnosis: denial of reality
I can of course demand that, but in my opinion it borders a bit on a denial of reality. For me it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with dumbing down - rather with the prevailing time pressure and the flood of information, which ensures that texts are skimmed more and more than read word for word.
Some also think that they have to show their competence / free-spiritedness / whatever by formulating sentences that go over several lines. In some areas, such as administration, this is the order of the day. I don't think so.
On the contrary, it is a special achievement to present complex information in such a way that everyone can understand it directly. And what's more, a 2005 study by Princeton University shows that someone who writes extremely complicated is perceived as less intelligent.
If you express yourself lofty because you want to be perceived as particularly educated, you will achieve exactly the opposite.
More about the study: The Secret Of Impressive Writing? Keep It Plain And Simple
How to formulate crisper texts in four steps
It is YOUR responsibility to ensure that the reader understands your text
I have already mentioned that I always question myself first when someone has misunderstood my texts (yes, that also happens to a copywriter ...). Maybe that has something to do with humility.
This is the kind of self-criticism, dear readers, that I would like from you too. Because that's where good texts start!
Just use my checklist to make your texts more reader-friendly in five simple steps.
Be a little more benevolent towards people in your everyday life and a little more critical of yourself. As I said, even I sometimes feel that someone doesn't really understand what I'm talking about.
And finally, I recommend my article: Why customers keep asking what is already on your website - and how you can avoid unnecessary inquiries
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