How To Defeat Your Most Dangerous Writing Habit: 9 Ways To Lift 'The Curse Of Knowledge’

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When we have been in a certain practice for long, we become veterans. Our expertise may cause us to overlook a beginner’s lack of knowledge. The curse of knowledge is something likely to affect anyone, irrespective of their age and profession. Whether you are involved in a law practice, content writing, web design, human resources or any other profession, you are susceptible to the curse of knowledge.

So, how do you tell if this curse affects you? It’s simple. If you cannot imagine what it is like not to know something, then you are affected. Do you have trouble explaining a point or a skill to people with less information? Basically, this curse makes it hard to communicate your knowledge to beginners, or people on a lower level of understanding than you.

Take, for instance, a lawyer explaining a point in legal jargon to a layman. His vast experience in legal practice may lead him to speak with the presumption that everyone should understand what he says.

As seen above, the curse of knowledge affects one’s communication skills. Article writing, blogging, content writing, customer support are all areas that require people to use great communication skills. 

Can the curse of knowledge affect writers?

As earlier mentioned, this is a curse that can affect anyone, with or without their knowledge. If anything, writers are more susceptible. Why? When we write, we do not have the opportunity to study our reader’s immediate reactions. We do not have a face-to-face encounter, and it is not easy to gauge immediate reactions such as facial expressions.

And so, this curse can easily find its way into a blog post, email, or web post. Below is everything you need to protect yourself.

9 Ways to Alleviate the Curse of Knowledge

Though it may sound ironic, the more you know about this curse, the easier it is for you to lift it. The following are good habits into practice whenever you express a point in writing.

Know Your Audience’s Level of Understanding

Shape your subject according to your audience’s understanding. You do this by conducting prior research. If the audience’s knowledge of the subject in question is high, you can consider skipping some background information. If they have zero knowledge or scanty information regarding a subject, start from the beginning and explain each point one at a time.

You can create a detailed target persona in your research to examine your reader’s level of knowledge.

Go Slow on Vocabularies

As a writer, the temptation to use jargon and fancy words is real. Remind yourself that if people cannot understand you, your write-up will be a total turn-off and a waste of everyone’s time. Use language that is simple and easy to understand.

Here’s an example. Instead of saying, ‘examine the email, click through then capitalize on what’s working’, you could say, ‘see how many people have opened our emails, and go for an option that works best’.

Both phrases relay the same information, but due to complicated words and sentence structure, the first one is more likely to be a turn-off. Make your sentences short and simple.

Use Visual Presentations - Images, Graphics, and Videos

Many people understand a point better by seeing its illustration. Visual presentations are a great way to pass information, because very few people will forget something they have seen. This is the reason behind those GIFs, PowerPoint presentations, and video slides on web pages. Are you good at video production? Browse through these jobs on Many people are seeking to reach the audience through visual presentations.

Have Someone Proofread Your Work

A writer’s job revolves around article writing, copywriting, editing, re-reading, re-arranging, and re-formatting. The endless cycle can leave you feeling overwhelmed, creating an opportunity for this curse to sneak into your work. To avoid writing things only you can understand, find someone who can help you in editing. Do not know any editors? Look for one here. Besides editing, your editor will help in proofreading your content.

When someone else reads through your work, they act as a litmus paper for the curse of knowledge.

Narrate a Story

Stories are captivating. In the past, they were the only ways of spreading information. There still exists a special bond between human beings and storytelling, and stories help us view the world from varying perspectives. We find it thrilling to link different characters to people in real life, taking sides, showing emotions, and eventually drawing lessons.

The fact that stories have a set layout - an introduction, middle, and end - makes it hard for the curse of knowledge to sneak in.

Give Examples

Examples help readers relate to the content in the right context. This is the why people use metaphors and similes. We have different images when one says something is white, and another says it is as white as snow. Examples help paint a picture in our brain. For instance, you can explain blogging using well-understood examples, such as a magazine available for reading on the internet.

Look from Different Lenses

To be able to publish unbiased content, consider getting feedback from a fresh set of readers. Get an audience that is not used to reading your content. New readers will note anything that might be confusing in your publication. They will point to areas they do not understand, and this will help you notice any area the curse might have sneaked into.

Avoid Abstractions

Do not write in notions just because you understand the concept. You may have a good understanding, but your reader doesn’t. Remember, they might be someone who needs information that is more specific and to the point. Give details that will help everyone, including newbies, to understand a concept. Instead of saying, ‘our mission is to provide the best phone customer care service’, you could say, ‘we strive to answer every phone call in our customer care department within a few rings, and attend to concerns that are not emergencies within 10 minutes’.

Both phrases speak of excellent customer support service at a call center, but the second one delivers details as well as being easy to understand.

Talk with Your Readers

Having a real conversation with the reader boosts your chances of being on the same page. Go through their comments, give answers to the questions raised, and respond to emails. Thank them for their input, and ask for their honest opinion. This communication will help establish a connection between you and your readers. If they feel connected to you, they will let you know if you get lost in the curse of knowledge.

In A Nutshell

Irrespective of the subject you are writing on, always write as if you are channelling information to a beginner version of yourself. A person who is in the early stages of learning, and has no clue about what you have gotten accustomed to over the years. If you want to impact people’s lives through your copywriting, do it in a language they can understand.

This article will help writers produce content their target audience understands. Feel free to share it with other writers to help avoid the curse of knowledge.

Got something to add on the curse of knowledge syndrome? Have you experienced it? Share your experience and thoughts with other freelance writers in the comments section below.

İlan Edilmiş 19 Eylül, 2017


Sales & Marketing Guru

Edward is the Sales & Marketing Correspondent for He is currently based in Sydney, and is a self-confessed ice-cream fan.

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