Your reader is not your enemy so don’t write in camouflage

Inez Romanos | July 28, 2015

I bought a terrific camouflage shirt last weekend. Camo isn’t usually my thing, but this is printed, ironically, on satin. It feels heavenly to wear but frankly, it isn’t flattering. I don’t stand out in a crowd. The message of ironic style is hidden in camouflage.

Your writing could be in camouflage too

That report on your desk — is its purpose unclear? Would your readers wonder about its point? Is its structure illogical? Perhaps it has long sentences they have to read twice, and typos that make them doubt the writer’s attention to detail.

Any of these features make the meaning of your document difficult to see, like a soldier clad in Woodland Pattern DPM (that’s Disruptive Pattern Material).

Image, camouflage pattern.

The camo that’s on my shirt Image by free photos / CC BY 2.0

Dazzle can be camouflaging

Or is it overwhelmed by the dazzle of ambiguous buzzwords? Do you recommend you facilitate the implementation of the capability building policy?

Or do you write in professional language? Legal, financial, and medical professionals often use language that is clear in their own circles. But their clients usually can’t understand that kind of language with its technical terms. They’re ‘blinded by science’ which undermines the very services those clients require.

Image, warship with dazzle camouflage.

‘Dazzle’ or ‘razzle dazzle’ is the name of this striking camouflage for warships. An earlier version was developed to camouflage allied ships from attack during both World Wars. Image by Smudge 9000 / CC BY 2.0

You’re not in a war zone, so write in plain sight

Remember, writing is not combat. Your reader is not your enemy. You’re not writing to hide from them, but to send them a message. Write so they can see you and hear you. Put down your rifle, take off your battledress, and write in your reader’s language.

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.