I think a lot about simplicity. Simplifying. It’s the essence of how I run Sendline and it’s at the core of my approach to facilitating. I have a strong belief that everything can be simplified, including stuff about leadership and management.
One aspect of simplifying I don’t often think about though is my language. A while back, I read a Goalcast article that talked about how Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson all use third grade language when talking about their products. I know Hemingway is often said to have written on a fifth grade level. Heck, the Hemingway app scores writing on a certain grade level. Perhaps counterintuitively, the lower the grade level, the better the writing. And better writing of course has the power to influence.
What’s really interesting about the app is the two specific elements it analyzes. First: adverbs. Adverbs essentially qualify the verb they precede, and thus potentially weaken it. Interesting. Second: the app looks for passive voice. Why? The same reason as using adverbs. Passive voice is weaker than active voice. The plot thickens. More ambiguously, it then looks for words or phrases with simpler alternatives, sentences that are hard to read, and, well, sentences that are very hard to read. It seems to be based on the notion that eliminating weak elements and simplifying make writing stronger, better, more clear.
The catch? It’s not easy simplifying. I love my adverbs! What’s worse is that when I want to sound smart, I throw simple out the window. Then immediately afterward I ironically feel like an idiot. Go figure.
ps… Hemingway scored this little piece at a Grade 6 and ’ironically’ was my eighth adverb in 269 words. It suggested kindly that I aim for one fewer. Too bad. I kept ‘ironically.’