Yes, that report!
You know that people are depending on it to make a decision, don’t you? And that your employer is paying you to write it?
That means the report has to confuse your readers. The last thing anyone needs is a report that’s consistent and clear.
So, to make sure your report is confusing, here are seven easy ways to do it.
1. Just get it written
You’re writing the report because you have to. And, like most people, you hate writing reports.
The trick is to just get it written.
The best way to start is with a brain dump. Just let the content pour on to the page. And leave it that way.
Your readers can never have too much information.
Make sure your content doesn’t make sense. Forget about using a logical structure, meaningful headings and clear explanations. Forget about providing context.
Let your readers sift through unstructured, verbose and repetitive text.
Assume your readers know what’s inside your head. That’ll guarantee the report is confusing.
Don’t concern yourself with things like writing style, the amount of detail and level technical information, or what your readers need from the report.
Don’t bother to ensure you know who your readers are so you can write for them.
And especially don’t bother about the people who may one day pick up the report and depend on it to make a decision or to perform a task.
Just keep the report the way it is — even if it’ll never be read.
2. Use words inconsistently
A simple way to be confusing is to use similar words interchangeably.
Like strategies, initiatives and goals.
Strategies and tactics.
Goals, aims and objectives.
Stages, phases and steps.
Issues and problems.
Issues and risks.
Got the picture?
You could alternatively refer to your report as a Business Plan, a Strategic Plan and a Strategic Business Plan. After all, those titles are pretty similar. And give yourself a pat on the back if some people think you’re working on three different reports.
3. Use words that your target audience doesn’t understand
Don’t fall into the trap of using words that most people are likely to understand. It only stops you looking smarter than your readers.
Why use boost or stimulus when fillip isn’t immediately clear to most people?
The important thing is to use big words and fancy words if you want to look smart.
It doesn’t matter that most of your readers will need a dictionary to understand what you’ve written.
4. Put initial capital letters on words that don’t need them
This is a great way of confusing your readers.
Make it difficult to understand when you’re referring to the names and titles of products, companies, places, other reports, etc. Put an initial capital letter on random words.
To make it more confusing, use initial capitals inconsistently.
Who cares that proper names are the only words that need initial capitals?
5. Make words plural by adding apostrophe s
What’s that? You already confuse your readers by adding apostrophe s to make words plural?
But I don’t believe you. Let me test you.
What’s the plural of these?
trend | logo | company | PC
If you said:
trend’s | logo’s | company’s | PC’s
… well, congratulations! You are confusing your readers!
Don’t worry that the correct answers are:
trends | logos | companies | PCs
Keep adding apostrophe s to make words plural and keep your readers confused.
You’re doing well, so far.
Now, I’d like to share with you two special little tricks. You may already be using them without even knowing it.
6. Specify units of measure any which way you want
Have you heard of the International System of Units, or SI units? It’s all about the correct way to specify metres and minutes and other units of measure.
There’s even an international standard for it: ISO/IEC 80000.
But what would the International Organization for Standardization know?
If you ignore these international conventions and standards, and write units of measure any which way you want, you’ll leave some of your readers utterly confused. Especially people who know how to use them properly.
Did you know that symbols aren’t made plural?
That you use spaces between symbols and numerals?
That it’s 60 km/h not 60kmph?
That kilowatts is written as kW, not KW nor kw nor KW’s?
I know, you weren’t taught how to write them properly in maths and science at school.
So why bother learning how to write them properly now that you’re an expert in your field? Even if you’re a technical expert writing about technical stuff?
And, finally, my favourite trick for confusing readers …
7. Depend on the spellchecker
It doesn’t matter that spellcheckers don’t pack up valid works used in the wrong context.
Nothing destroys the flow of a report like the right word in the wrong place!
And of course, you probably don’t have the luxury of a proofreader to review your work. If you did, they’d correct you when you use affect instead of effect, and principal instead of principle.
Your readers may be confused when your report refers to a risk-adverse solution even though you mean the opposite. But they’ll work it out, won’t they?
And based on the context, most people will figure out that you meant lose instead of loose, and incidence instead of incidents.
So just keep depending on that spellchecker.
It’s easier to be confusing
And, hopefully, I’ve shown you just how easy it is.
Just remember: the trick to confusing your readers is to avoid giving them what they need to understand what you’ve written. Especially when they’re paying you for it. They’re smart enough to work out what you mean.
Don’t bother checking things in dictionaries and style guides, and verifying use of standards. Your readers are fairly tolerant, so your report won’t have a negative impact on your business or brand. Will it?
Don’t care about being clear and consistent.
Follow my tips, and you’ll be a master of confusing your readers.