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How simple is simple enough: Editor's Notes #230
February 28, 2017
Hello,

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
--Mark Twain


In this issue:

1. How simple is simple enough?
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. How simple is simple enough?
When I edit, I include a readability score. I don't think I'm the only editor who does this, but apart from editors who specialize in literature for children, I am one of only a few.

A readability score gives an idea of how easy your text is to read. Attending to readabiilty shows you are thoughtful about your reader as well as your message.

I always recommend that you think of your reader at his or her worst. For example, if you are submitting your text to a publishing house, think of the person asked to read your text and make a case to the boss on whether or not to offer you a contract.

The reader is at the end of a long day. On the left side of the desk is a ten-inch pile of manuscripts needing to be read. The reader has had a headache coming on all day and is losing the battle against worry about the sick child at home. Just before the reader's hand reaches for your manuscript, an urgent memo drops on the desk asking for input into another office issue. The reader quickly whips off an answer, sighs, and picks up your manuscript. That is the person you must convince. That is the person who should finish your text with a sense of joy because finally there is a book that sounds excellent.

That person, who probably went to at least some university, has a reading level of something like 12.0-16.9. But that person is not working at peak ability, so I always suggest that writers aim much lower when it comes to readability.

And if you have a difficult topic, you have to add what is called cognitive overhead into the calculation. Cognitive overhead is how much mental effort it takes to make connections when making sense of something. So if your topic is complex or is difficult in any other way, you have a bigger responsibility to lower the reading score so you don't overload your reader.

This is not dumbing something down. It is writing clearly and thoughtfully.

I urge you to write simply enough to delight the most overburdened reader you can imagine.

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2.Tickled my funnybone
Sign in a department store: Bargain Basement Upstairs

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3. Interesting Web site
The linked article here is about apps, but the idea of cognitive overhead applies to writing as well.
http://firstround.com/review/cognitive-overhead-is-your-products-overlord-topple-it-with-these-tips/

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4. Writing prompt
Just one word today: heavy. Make quick notes about heavy for one minute. Then write until you feel you are done.

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