Writing is an artform. Its essence based in the same intangible notions a painter draws upon for graphical inspiration or a musician turns to when placing notes between bars on a page. It’s also the chief communicating force that drives your brand’s key messaging, no matter the platform. In my opinion, there are a number of outdated cliches and misnomers many writers find themselves trapped by. Today, we’ll start a series of blog posts centering around releasing the writing shackles, if you will, that you’ve been confined to while dispelling some myths you’re most likely all too familiar with.
Are You Smarter than a Sixth Grader?
So, before we get to the good stuff, I feel the need to clarify something in regards to the headline you just read. Yeah, I totally am. Ok, now that my ego can rest easy tonight, let’s look at a quote from a writer who works for the State of Massachusetts and their digital platforms. In an article for medium.com, the writer states, “We need to write for everyone while empathizing with each individual. That’s why we write at a 6th grade reading level.” In fact, many of you have probably been told something similar as you progressed through your educational careers, dumb it down so everyone can understand it. Much of this is rooted in the outdated belief that there exists in this country a large swath of the population sans a high school-level education.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s data, however, paints a pretty black and white picture on the issue (ok, so technically orange and teal, but still). According to the Bureau, “In 1940, less than half of the population age 25 and older had a high school diploma. Over the years this has increased to the point where we now have 90 percent who have completed high school,” said Kurt Bauman, a demographer in the Social, Economic and Housing Statistics division. That means out of the 217 million people age 25 and older, 194 million have a high school diploma or higher.” It doesn’t stop there. Over ⅓ of all adult Americans have attained a bachelor’s degree and 13% of the total population possesses a master’s degree or higher. To summarize the analytical findings from one of our nation’s most respected statistical savants, we ain’t no dummies, bruh.
For what’s been seemingly decades, writers across all mediums have been told to be as plain spoken as possible, to shun off any thought of expressing personality or propagating prose that might be labeled as too risque. Appeal to as many people as possible while appealing to no one, that was the goal. The truth is that in our modern culture, especially one so centered around social media, these concepts are as out of date as those 14 pairs of Zubaz you’ve got stored away in your attic while you patiently wait for the cyclical nature of fashion to run its course and make them socially acceptable to wear in public again. Spoiler alert: unless Drake starts making some super bold fashion choices in the near future, it’s probably not gonna happen. We got a little off track with the whole Zubaz and Drake thing there, sorry about that, but point being that the way brands communicate with the public has changed. Crafting a brand identity is a crucial part in how you communicate effectively to your audiences across all mediums. The bottom line: Don’t dumb it down. Never be afraid to express yourself.