My ninth grade health teacher was a nutty older gentleman named Gerry Summerhays. He was very big on the K.I.S.S. philosophy. No, this didn’t have anything to do with Gene Simmons or rocking and rolling all night and partying every day. His was the acronym frequently found on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and novelty hats sold at gag stores or through SkyMall. Keep It Simple, Stupid.
What got me thinking about this somewhat cliche, yet persistently useful piece of acronymization was a website that popped up in my Facebook feed recently for The Punctuation Guide.
Now this is a handy little website that provides clear, concise reminders on the proper usage of a wide variety of punctuation marks. It dawned on me that when you get down to the nitty gritty there aren’t many different punctuation marks that one really needs to write effectively. I know that Tom Wolff re-defined the boundaries of punctuation in the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, but we don’t need to go through all that hassle. If anything it would turn off more people than it would attract.
So what do we need? Periods and commas are no-brainers, question marks for questions, naturally, and if you’re quoting someone quotation marks would be the way to go. A grand total of four punctuation marks to be effective, and two of those are situational.
I’ve seen it before. This is one of the areas where being a college instructor has been beneficial. I’ve read enough papers that spent more time trying to sound smart than they actually spent being smart.
Do you want to convince your audience how smart you are or do you want to generate conversions?
Keep it simple. Write like Hemingway if you need to, i.e., keep it short and to the point. Don’t sacrifice clarity for what you perceive as fancy writing. If someone is reading your content they want you to get to the point quickly. Don’t get bogged down in complex writing that convolutes everything you’re trying to accomplish.