KISS – Dumbing Down Is OK

When I began my first role at a large global newspaper producer I was gobsmacked to learn that the target audience that they pitch their writing at was 12 year old children. Surely we afford audiences greater intelligence than that?

I was aghast at the thought of “dumbing down” what I believed to be the most important news source of our nation. As an aside, I’ve since grown somewhat more critical of these publications.

Coming from a technical space, where I used statistical concepts and tools for the interrogation and creation of large data sources daily, and being required to answer business problems experienced by others, the idea of interpretation was so innate for me as not to be discerned as a skill. There was so many layers of technical knowledge that went into the analysis I was doing that I developed the mantra that “the easy questions are the hardest to answer” when talking to non-technical audiences.

It was many years into my career before “plain English” language became the flavour de jour and resulted in all large organisations, corporates, governments and not for profits instituting company wide training is plain English.

Clear communication is invaluable. As this blog commenting on academic anxiety around “dumbing down” so eloquently puts it:

The whole reason to reach people who don’t know what you know, as an expert, is so that they might know about it. Giving them reason to care, process, and understand is precisely the point.

Don’t be afraid of dumbing down. Keep it simple sister. If you can get a 12 year old to comprehend and be enthusiastic about whatever you’re talking about, then there’s a good chance your point has been made.