IPEd Editors Conference

The 10th IPEd Editors Conference will be hosted online on Monday 28 June 2021 to Wednesday 30 June 2021.

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Communications for the people — all people

by Kylee Bristow

It starts with the simplest of questions: ‘Who is the reader?’

It’s a fundamental question — perhaps the first one we need to ask when we take on an editing job.

But it’s astounding how often the writer’s response is a blank stare. Or, worse, ‘everyone’.

Not only is that unlikely, it’s probably not even possible. Because not ‘everyone’ will be able to consume the content in the way the writer intends to deliver it.

Cognitive bias is too big a topic to cover here, but it’s basically about the unconscious ways that humans think about and perceive their world that lead them to make decisions based on false assumptions.

I believe editors should educate themselves about cognitive biases — because writers have them. And these biases can threaten the success of their communication with those who may need their content most.

One such bias is that writers tend to imagine their readers are exactly like themselves. They write content they would prefer to read — whether it’s a book, article or social media post. They probably don’t even realise they do it.

So the readers who are like them will probably consume and understand the content with no problems. But anyone else may not.

What about someone with a lower reading level? Does the content require a particular education or literacy level?

What about someone who speaks English as a second language? Or an elderly person with bad eyesight?

Never has this been more important than in 2020. This is a rare time when the answer ‘everyone’ can actually be true. Communicators have struggled to explain evolving situations and ever-changing messages to a diverse population.

As editors, it’s our job to consider the delivery of the content we’re editing and its appropriateness for the audience — the entire audience. Lives could actually depend on us getting it right.

Editing isn’t just about language; it’s about ensuring the right message is communicated in the right way to the right people at the right time.

And that’s not an easy job. After all, we editors have our own biases too.

Want to know more?

This year’s Queensland Business Writers Conference is 100 per cent online, so all of Australia is invited. At this training event, we’ll get answers to important questions about developing communications for all the people.

You can also hear more about accessible communication during COVID-19 in episodes 5 and 6 of this webinar series by Thriving Communities Partnership.


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