As a writer, I’ve never felt too much doubt about the power of words over the years. Of course you have to choose the right words, and specifically the words that will convey what you want to convey to your intended readers, which isn’t easy. But if you can do that, it’s always seemed to me, words won’t let you (or your readers) down.
However, I have in front of me a document which does rather challenge this assumption. It’s a 48-page A5 booklet from the guidance service PensionWise titled “Your pension: it’s time to choose” , and one of its intended pre-retirement age readers is in fact me.
And I can’t get any sense out of it at all. In fact, I can’t be bothered to read beyond about page 8 or so.
This is partly because the writing style is very boring – flat, dull, colourless, utterly lacking in life. But it’s more for another reason: it’s just words. (Well, and a few numbers.) There’s one font and, as far as I can see, three point sizes, and apart from some tinted text panels and tables that’s all there is for 48 pages. No graphics, no pictures, no graphs or charts, no signposts (except the front cover, which does literally show a picture of a signpost) and obviously as a printed booklet no video, audio or music.
What I’ve discovered is that today, you just can’t communicate a subject as detailed, lengthy and boring as this when the only tools in your communications toolbox are one font, three point sizes, some tinted panels and something between 15 and 20,000 words. Yes, the subject is important, and yes it’s of personal interest. But, even so, it’s just too boring.
And if I’m saying that, as an avid reader and as someone whose understanding of pensions (though pitiful by expert standards) is at least ten times better than average, then so are an awful lot of other people.
So, note to self: you just can’t communicate with nothing but words any more. Which, a million or so words into this blog, must be a worry.