When information hinders rather than helps

Helpful information is presented in the order that suits the reader, not the writer. Too often, however, writers present information in the order that suits them. The obvious examples are where the writers are worried that they may be legally challenged and put the information of least use to the reader first.

Have a look at the label on a packet of tablets. Does it start by telling you what they will do for you and how to take them? Or does it start by listing ingredients using their scientific – and to most of us incomprehensible – names?

Unhelpful medicine label

If the label starts with Active Ingredients, followed by numerous warnings as to when not to use the tablets, many people don’t even bother to read the instructions. Studies by the Communication Research Institute in Australia found that if this is the case, consumers believe the makers of the medicine are simply protecting themselves. So, rather than reading the information provided, they rely on their own knowledge and experience.

A badly written label on a packet of pills could have serious consequences. When it comes to other badly written text, we may not be talking about life and death, but we are talking about efficient and effective communication.

A basic rule of writing is to consider your readers and what you can do for them. That means putting the information in the order that suits them, not you.

If you think I could help you write more effectively, do contact me.

I run writing courses as well as individual coaching.

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