The simplicity that lives on the other side

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Following is a re-post from Business Writing Coach, my business site, that may interest you.


I was listening to a radio program in which a software designer* was talking about the main issue of design. “Designing simple solutions,” he said, “is always much more difficult than designing complicated ones.”

Whenever you set out to solve a problem it seems simple at first and you start down a path where you think you’re going to solve it, but as you do, you begin to recognise there are more and more pieces of the problem. And most people stop there. What we get are solutions that are functional but complicated. Most designers stop before getting to the simplicity that lives on the other side.

This is a good statement of the issue and possibility of design, and it applies to writing just as much as it applies to software design or any other design activity. You may not have thought of business writing as a design activity, yet that’s exactly what it is.

Most people writing a business document, from an email to a 100-page report, stop writing too early. They stop writing at the same point most software designers stop: when they have a document that is functional but complicated. If they kept going, kept interrogating the idea of what it is they really want to say, they would discover the simplicity that lives on the other side. When one gets to the other side, suddenly the document resolves itself, writes itself, indeed.

Typically, up to half of what was previously there drops away as irrelevant. Issues and qualifications that previously seemed crucial to the communication vanish. The resulting document achieves what I call “inevitability”, or what the designer on the radio program describes as getting to a design “where people see it, and say, ‘Of course'”.


You may think you can’t afford the time to write emails and document in this way, and you’re right that it can take extra time. What you may be overlooking is what it’s costing you to not write this way: the cost in unanswered emails, reports that do not win the support and influence you hoped for, colleagues who do not supply the information you need, misunderstandings, upsets and missed opportunities.

At Business Writing Coach, we teach you how to get to the “simplicity that lives on the other side” in a reliable, replicable way. The principles themselves are simple and easy to learn, and when combined with a commitment to communications mastery, make a huge difference. Call or email today for a chat about your needs and how we can meet them. Telephone Narelle on 0412 616 076 (Melbourne, Australia).


* Software designer, Gentry Underwood, CEO of Mailbox, speaking on Future Tense, Radio National, ABC Radio, 9 February 2014.


6 thoughts on “The simplicity that lives on the other side

  1. Yes, the best writing and the best designs look simple, but looking simple usually takes serious work. (And I needed the reminder that even emails require a certain amount of craft to be effective! :) )


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