Beat the Curse of Knowledge

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Beat the Curse of Knowledge

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that leads us to overestimate the knowledge of our audience. If you allow this curse to infect your writing, you may unwittingly leave supporters feeling confused an alienated. To make matters worse—the more experience you gain as an advocate, the more susceptible you become to the curse.

Common traps include:

The political curse

The assumption that our supporter understands the political process; the role of Ministerial Departments; what electorate they’re in; party acronyms; or what party their MP belongs to. They may not.

The industry curse

The assumption that when we reference things like ‘supply chains’, ‘mortality rate’, or use welfare terms (such as ‘furnished cage’, ‘sow stall’, ‘maceration’), our supporters will know what those terms mean and their implications for animals. Chances are, they know neither.

The legal curse

Assuming that our supporter is familiar with the definitions of legal terms such as ‘breach’, ‘regulation’, or ‘regulatory authority’. Don’t bank on it.

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The campaign curse

The assumption that our supporters have been following our campaign and don’t need a gentle reminder of why it’s important or how our current focus will tangibly help animals. They do.

Once you’re aware of the curse, it’s easy to beat. Use common language in place of technical terms and processes. Write for those who know little if anything about your topic.

One of the biggest lessons this curse has taught me is that depending on my audience, being “precise” and being “understood” are not always the same things!

From: 7 traits of a clear writing style

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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