What this is about
Hi! My name is Max. I am an editor in Russia. I help businesses talk to their customers.
I created a school of simple, clear and persuasive writing in Russian. For the last seven years, I developed it for Russian editors. I've written three hundred articles, launched a proofing service, a school and a book. Next stop—help my fellow editors write simple, clear and persuasive text for readers outside Russia.
Born in Russia in 1988, to a family of construction engineers. PhD in Linguistics and Teaching English as a Foreign Language. As a native Russian, this is the smiliest he gets
The method: simple
My editing method is based on three ideas: simplicity, clarity and persuasion.
Simplicity means using the simplest words and simplest syntax possible. If you need to say 'talk to your customers', I'll always recommend using 'talk', not 'communicate', 'transmit', 'divulge' or 'enlighten'.
It's harder to miss when you use simple words. Especially when you or your reader don't speak English natively. Between sounding smart and speaking simply, I always recommend simple:
|I will be attempting to provide guidance to fellow ink-slingers, notwithstanding the calamities of transitioning to a dissimilar linguistic system.||I will try to help fellow editors, despite the difficulties of changing to a different language.|
|It is with great assurance that I proclaim the dictatorship of substance over the embodiment of a communicative act.||I believe content is more important than style.|
|Nevertheless, laborious optimization of articulatory properties of written word is still required to improve the manyfold qualities of content consumption.||Still, you need to work hard to make your writing readable and easy to understand.|
Between sounding smart and sounding simple, always go with simple
The method: clear
Clarity means making ideas easy to understand. To achieve clarity, you will usually need to do three things: remove unnecessary ideas, get right to the point, and use structural elements: paragraphs, sections and headings. I'll talk more about clarity in future articles.
|However strange it might feel, many people struggle with a notion as simple as starting with what they actually have to say. This might be due to a number of issues, including upbringing, schooling or a multitude of typically Eastern cultural traditions to start any communication with a preamble.||Starting with what's important is hard for many people.|
|It is a long way to go, and many topics to cover, including the ones related to clarity, but in time I hope to expand the scope of these articles to cover all.||I will talk about clarity in future articles.|
Remove clutter, put important stuff first, add headings and quotes. Like this one
The method: persuasive
Persuasion means making sure readers agree with you, or at least consider your ideas. I persuade with stories, examples, illustrations, and other kinds of proof. You will notice that every idea in this article is supported by examples.
Persuasive text avoids abstract ideas. It needs to be grounded in reality and offer relatable examples.
|Abstract, unpersuasive||Grounded and persuasive|
|Clear and simple writing, albeit hard and complicated, is key to successful communication.
However, the tradition of teaching English as a foreign language, especially on higher levels, is hardly adjacent to the ideas of simplicity and clarity.
Many non-English-speakers tend to create smart-sounding text that lacks the properties required for effective communication. Oblivious to the fact, they build on the complexity and clutter, making the communication even less effective.
|It's hard to write in English as it is. Especially when it's not your mother tongue, with all the vocabulary and grammar. Heck, the 16 tenses alone are hard enough.|
What's worse—nobody ever teaches you to write clearly. If anything, your teacher will make you use smarter words and trickier grammar, not simpler. Traditional English teaching, as I know it from Russia, makes you sound smart, not clear.
I've seen many English-speaking Russians overcomplicate what they write. We try to sound smart in presentations and ads, we send mind-numbing letters and reports. Many take pride in this complexity, while their readers struggle.
Use examples and proof to persuade
This is non-fiction, for non-native speakers
My method is only designed for non-fiction: what you write for business, advertising, websites, apps and interface. To some extent—for journalism, blogging and generally writing for the web.
My method applies to people who are not native speakers: say, a Russian editor writing up a press release for Europe, or a Ukrainian designer building apps for clients in America. (See what I did there? Examples!)
As a native Russian, I realize I can never truly understand English, no matter how many episodes of Sherlock I watch. So I am not looking to teach English to English natives. But I sure hope some of my advice comes in handy.
More articles on clarity, simplicity and persuasion coming up.
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