Curse of knowledge

Just been reading an article  which sums up one of the problems in explaining complex things….

… seems those who know rely on their own deep short hand understanding of a topic rather than explaining simply with description and examples. A good lesson to be learnt .  The article refers to Steven Pinker’s  book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Here are two passages from the article:

Example 1

“How can we lift the curse of knowledge?” asks Pinker. “A considerate writer will…cultivate the habit of adding a few words of explanation to common technical terms, as in ‘Arabidopsis, a flowering mustard plant,’ rather than the bare ‘Arabidopsis.’ It’s not just an act of magnanimity: A writer who explains technical terms can multiply her readership a thousandfold at the cost of a handful of characters, the literary equivalent of picking up hundred-dollar bills on the sidewalk.”

Example 2

“Readers will also thank a writer for the copious use of for example, as in, and such as, because an explanation without an example is little better than no explanation at all.”

We need to all get better at writing for readers rather than for ourselves.


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