Tag Archives: straightforward

Don’t jeopardize your audience: a lesson in clarity

Did you hear about the Final Jeopardy answer that stumped all of the contestants, causing them to finish the game in a 3-way tie with $0.00? (On Jeopardy, unlike other quiz shows, contestants are given the answers and asked to supply the questions.)

Here’s the answer. Spoiler alert: You’ll find the correct question at the end of this post.

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Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Got that? Like a lot of good Jeopardy answers, this one requires you to blend your knowledge of disparate things — mid-20th century history and the locations of presidential libraries.

But unlike good Jeopardy answers, this one is just too convoluted.  It takes a lot of untangling just to figure out what they’re looking for. The name of an event? Umm, no. The name of a president? No again.

They’re looking for the name of a city. See it there, buried in the middle?

Watching all 3 contestants walk away empty-handed should serve as a reminder to every technical communicator: keep it as straightforward as you can. Even (especially) when you’re describing things that are complicated. Use an uncomplicated sentence structure in which the subject and predicate are easy to find and all key ideas receive the proper emphasis.

Otherwise your audience will walk away empty-handed.

The question to the answer: What is Little Rock, Arkansas? Did you know it? (I did.)