Digging Deeper–The Curse of Knowledge

medium 4495939267 300x242 Digging Deeper  The Curse of KnowledgeYou may find it hard to meander through the valleys of fallacies, misconceptions and biases as a writer. It’s often a revelation to learn the true implications of our speech. One pitfall you should try to avoid especially as a writer is the cognitive bias called the curse of knowledge.

Defining the Curse

Economists, Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein, and Martin Weber, described the condition plaguing “better-informed” agents who experience a disconnect with lesser-informed.

You may have experienced this phenomenon in school. You have a brilliant teacher who knows her subject matter thoroughly. Yet, she lacks the ability to present this to your beginner’s mind in a way you can understand. Her knowledge has created a barrier to understanding what it’s like for someone new to the discipline.

You may encounter this experience at work. You have a colleague who excels in sales. You want to succeed too. You ask him what his secret is. He replies that he just talks to people. A lot of help that is!

Removing the Curse from Your Writing

Identifying the curse in your writing poses a challenge not unlike recognizing your own grammar mistakes. However, avoiding it carries a risk as well. You don’t want to come across as condescending either. Fortunately, you can take some simple measures to avoid this trap and get your point across effectively.

Use a grammar checking add-on

Some grammar checking add-ons will give you an assessment of your work based on the grade level of your writing. How you modify your writing depends upon your audience. This part is up to you. Generally, you want to aim for a seventh grade level writing for popular news articles.

Don’t look down on this bar. Remember that people read on the go more. You are competing with oodles and oodles of information out there. Readers will cast aside something if they feel that a dictionary is necessary to understand it.

Use common terms when appropriate

You can’t avoid jargon in some disciplines. How else would you explain the Kreb’s cycle or the renin-angiotensin pathway. However, you can explain difficult topics oftentimes using the common speak instead of technical terms to make it understandable.

People shy away from “big words.” It may engender hesitancy or doubt. For whatever reason, some people may be naturally leery or afraid to admit they don’t understand. Don’t make it an issue; use words that everyone can understand. The concept outranks using the correct lingo.

Seek other help

An excellent website/editor for reviewing your work is the Hemingway App. It has only a web interface now, but a desktop version is on the way. After pasting your text, the site will give it a grade level. It will also identify long and difficult sentences, along with passive voice. It will see what you cannot.

Finally, you can seek the help of a friend to proofread your work. That may slow you down a bit, so try the other suggestions to streamline your work. The point is clear writing means making your work accessible on all levels. Your knowledge doesn’t have to get in the way of a good story.

Works Cited:
Camerer, Colin, George Loewenstein, and Martin Weber. “The Curse of Knowledge in Economic Settings: An Experimental Analysis.” Journal of Political Economy 97.5 (1989): 1232-254. Print.
“Curse of Knowledge.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.
Wieman, Carl. “The “Curse of Knowledge,” or Why Intuition About Teaching Often Fails.” The Back Page. APS Physics, Nov. 2007. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.
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Digging Deeper and Avoiding the Whiskey

medium 6679662427 300x300 Digging Deeper and Avoiding the WhiskeyWith each new controversy, it becomes harder to stay impartial as a writer. Undoubtedly, some topics get you fired up enough to speak your mind to the world. It helps if it is something that hits close to home.

I have had a longstanding policy of avoiding controversy. I can’t see the point of alienating any reader–or buyer when it comes to my artwork. I may not agree, but I will not pull an ad hominem on you. That brings me to the point of discussing another type of fallacy, the if-by-whiskey fallacy.

Take a Stand When Push Comes to Shove

We’ve all suffered through this one. Usually, it often occurs in a political environment, whether it’s on the national stage or the school board. It may even play out around the kitchen table.

It goes something like this. The speaker wants to avoid upsetting anyone. So instead, their opinion adapts to the listener. He may call it appeasing someone; another person may out it as doublespeak. At the very least, it is insincere.

Sometimes, you have to take a stand. As Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Now, I’m not advocating intentionally trying to piss someone off. What I am suggesting is to be a genuine person. Be the person who everyone knows speaks the their truth.

Think about that for a moment. What a profound goal it is! You are known as a person of integrity. Yeah, the truth tips the scale toward political incorrectness at times; it swings the other way too. Truth, after all, is a dynamic quality.

Bringing Sincerity to Your Writing

You can bring the same sincerity to your writing. It brings verisimilitude to your work. Your characters act like real people in the universe of your story. They don’t exist as the individuals who give you the fish handshake. They may rub some people the wrong way, but that’s life.

With this take on your writing, you elicit all kinds of emotions in your readers that can make your work memorable. With so much electronic noise out there, you can tap into something that makes your words truly special–and sell-able.

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