“The village blacksmith hired an enthusiastic new apprentice willing to work long, hard hours. He instructed the boy, ‘When I take the horseshoe out of the fire, I’ll lay it on the anvil. When I nod my head, you hit it with the hammer.’ The apprentice did exactly as he was told, and now he’s the new village blacksmith.”
According to the Writing Center at The University of North Carolina, “In order to communicate effectively, we need to order our words and ideas on the page in ways that make sense to a reader. The problem, well-defined by WebAIM.org, is that “Writing clearly and simply has never been either clear or simple.”
The blacksmith story is simple enough. The problem lies in the “it”. Since the word “head” is closer to the “it” than the word “horseshoe”, the apprentice can hardly be blamed for hitting the wrong thing.
To avoid having your business blog posts convey the wrong message, try following a few of WebAim’s common-sense suggestions:
- Stick to the point
- Assume your readers are intelligent, but do not assume that they know the subject matter as well as you
- Write cohesive paragraphs constructed around a single major idea
- Use familiar words and word combinations
- Make sure the sentence construction is consistent within itself
- Avoid multiple negatives
- Write short sentences
In the blacksmith story, “it” is what is called a referent pronoun, because it refers back to a noun. The blacksmith intended, of course, to refer back to the noun “horseshoe”. However, because the noun “head” was closer to the referent pronoun, the blacksmith never got the chance for a rewrite.
All well and good for us to laugh at the apprentice in the tale, but the moral of the story is a serious one for blog content writers. We want online searchers to get the message, not be left scratching their heads (or getting them hit with a hammer)!