Who are you speaking to?

Be clear about your audience. Visualise them as you are writing or designing.

It is easier to write and design for yourself. That is why many business communications harp on about how wonderful it is while neglecting to state what it can do for customers. This is very easy to do.

Are you mirroring your audience?

Mirroring creates a sense of oneness with your audience because you are speaking to them as they would to their friends.

You may also deliberately choose not to mirror your audience. Safety instructions and legal paperwork deliberately use non-intimate language to impart a sense of all-knowing solemn seriousness.

Your designs need to mirror your audience’s visual language too. Or not. K-Mart’s catalogues have a visual language that is different from David Jones’.

Are you using clichés or jargon?

Clichés, including corporate-speak, are just boring. They provide no useful information.

Clichés can be visual too. Think nasty clipart of handshakes, graphs, dolphins, envelopes…

Using jargon can alienate your audience if they are not familiar with those terms. Doing so can also give the impression that you are knowledgeable.

When you are addressing those in the know, using jargon can create an increased sense of camaraderie or solidarity.

Are you using overly long sentences? Or overly fancy designs?

Verbal diarrhoea is unattractive. Limit yourself to one concept per sentence.

Limit the use of typefaces and colours. One typeface, one colour is a good aim. Less is definitely more. As a general rule, avoid florid typefaces.

Do you provide a clear information hierarchy?

Present information step by step. Use multiple simple diagrams instead of a single all-encompassing one. Put most important concept first – at the start of a document or website, and at the start of each paragraph.

Group similar concepts in a paragraph, or in groups of paragraphs.

Editing is important. Does the total package still fit your needs?