If You Can’t See It, Don’t Say It.

If You Can’t See It, Don’t Say It.
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If You Can’t See It, Don’t Say It.


Can you visualize the paradigm shift? Neither can I.

“It’s mission-critical to be plain-spoken, whether you’re trying to be best-of-breed at outside-the-box thinking or simply incentivizing colleagues to achieve a paradigm shift in core-performance value-adds. Leading-edge leveraging of your plain-English skill set will ensure that your actionable items synergize future-proof assets with your global-knowledge repository.”

For those of you without your decoder rings handy, let me boil this message to simple terms: It’s important to communicate your messages clearly.

This tongue-in-cheek depiction of the way in which buzzwords tend to be abused in today’s content comes from an article published in the Harvard Business Review by grammar guru Bryan A. Garner. Garner’s lesson is this: write plainly, sound like a person; a point with which I wholeheartedly agree.

I recently learned another valuable tip that I think is also relevant to such a discussion: Avoid writing what you cannot easily visualize.

For instance, let’s say you were asked to quickly sketch out the following line:

‘Patients can pull up their medial records online.’  Easy, right?

Now try this one:

‘Patients can utilize an online portal to access actionable information.” Not as easy.

The most effective forms of content marketing strike the right balance between substance and delivery. Naturally it all must start with good material. From there, good writers are actively repurposing the material in different ways for different types of audiences. Visual is another form of “repurposing” the content. Take that blog post or portion of a whitepaper, for example, and turn it into a short video or animation.

But if you think it is difficult to define things like “efficiency” and “solutions” imagine trying to visualize them. This is where the practice of, ‘if you can’t see it, don’t say it’ may come in handy. Take a few lines and put them to the test: see if you can easily sketch out in pictures what you are trying to say in words. If you can get the message across visually (even at the bare minimum), then your words have done the trick.

It’s time we used the visual test as a communications discipline. It can be an impactful gauge for identifying the gaps that exist between our message and delivery.