Beat the curse of knowledge with our written communication courses

Beat the curse of knowledge with our written communication courses

Ever received an answer to your question that leaves you scratching your head, no matter how many times you read it? Or asked your team to write a business proposal, but what they write is missing key details? Our written communication courses can help you avoid these pitfalls of communicating at work.

This article answers the following questions:

  • Why is it so easy to communicate poorly?
  • How can we overcome the curse of knowledge?
Smiling Indian woman in spotty business shirt reads the document she wrote using tips from our written communication courses.

Understand the curse of knowledge

Feeling misunderstood at work is frustrating and all too common. But why does it happen so often?

Often, when we communicate with others, we assume that they know what we know: we overestimate how much our readers know about a subject. This is the curse of knowledge.

Professionals spend years building their knowledge about certain subjects. And this expertise and familiarity makes it harder to see the perspective of non-experts.

Assuming our target audience knows all that we do leads us to:

  • use and not define jargon
  • leave out important details
  • think less carefully about our readers’ needs.

These elements make our writing difficult to understand. What we should be doing is making our writing so easy to read that our audience can read our writing once and:

  • find what they need
  • understand what they find
  • use that information.

Fortunately, we have plain language to save us from the curse of knowledge.

Empathise with your reader

To avoid the curse of knowledge, try stepping into your readers’ shoes. Ask yourself whether they know the technical terms or context you’re writing about.

Even if the technical terms or context are obvious to you, reader empathy involves avoiding jargon and clarifying your logic.

For example, writing ‘please perform a power cycle on your laptop to initiate a fresh boot’, is full of jargon and difficult to understand.

A jargon-free alternative shows your reader that you’ve thought about their needs: ‘please turn your laptop off and on again’.

But can you use technical words in your writing and still be an empathetic writer?

As a rule of thumb, technical words are fine to use internally with fellow subject matter experts. But for client-facing documents,  make technical words ‘the exception, and put everything else in everyday language.’

Want your writing to be

Turn writing at work into writing that works with our ISO-aligned plain language system.

Empathise with your reader

To avoid the curse of knowledge, try stepping into your readers’ shoes. Ask yourself whether they know the technical terms or context you’re writing about.

Even if the technical terms or context are obvious to you, reader empathy involves avoiding jargon and clarifying your logic.

For example, writing ‘please perform a power cycle on your laptop to initiate a fresh boot’, is full of jargon and difficult to understand.

A jargon-free alternative shows your reader that you’ve thought about their needs: ‘please turn your laptop off and on again’.

But can you use technical words in your writing and still be an empathetic writer?

As a rule of thumb, technical words are fine to use internally with fellow subject matter experts. But for client-facing documents,  make technical words ‘the exception, and put everything else in everyday language.’

You’ll generally want to avoid acronyms too. Instead of telling a client about your BOGO deal, spell it out and let them know you have buy-one-get-one-free deal. If you have to use an uncommon acronym, make sure you spell it out.

The benefit of this empathetic approach is that readers will:

  • accept your ideas or suggestions
  • follow your instructions more accurately
  • agree with your position with less persuasion on your part.

Get help from our plain language experts

Whether you’re writing to inform or persuade we can help you learn to communicate like a pro. Our communication skills workshops are ideal for anyone who writes for work, and we cover a range of document types including:

  • media, communications and digital writing
  • board paper, audit, report, decision and investigation writing
  • legal writing
  • policy and procedure writing
  • letter and email writing
  • ministerial, policy and brief writing.

The techniques we cover keep you focused on writing with your readers in mind. This prevents a problem that many people face: writing for themselves (an offshoot of the curse of knowledge).

To find the right workshop for you, look at our workshops in more detail or contact our friendly team today.

All our writing courses align with Plain language – Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines (ISO 24495-1). 

Investing in updating your communication skills likely means you’ll have extra time to edit your documents to make them free from grammatical errors. And the more you use plain language, the easier it gets. We find that this saves you time and multiple rewrites. We like to think of this as ‘downstream efficiency’ – a win for you and your colleagues.

Finally, to help make your written communication clear, consistent and error free, use our free Australian Style Guide. This resource covers the most common style questions for Australian:

  • communication specialists
  • professionals writing at work
  • students and academics.

Part of the EdventureCo Group​