It is quite disconcerting when you’re misunderstood by your readers. Anytime this happens, you find yourself going through your works over and over again, trying to figure out what could have distorted the meaning you embedded in your message. Maybe you will wonder whether the idioms, sarcasms, ironies and other terms and expressions used figuratively were the culprits. But what if you were still misunderstood despite using simple clear language? Does it mean it is your fault that you were misinterpreted or the fault if from your reader?
Well, that is the challenge faced by every writer. By “writer” here, I mean people that put down their thoughts, opinions, instructions, commands, and ideas in written form. This could be done through SMS, email, social media chats, articles, books, and so on. That is to say that almost everyone must have been misunderstood at a particular point in time. However it is becoming worrisome that lack of comprehension causes people to miss lifetime opportunities, make mistakes or display ignorance. It is also devastating that people are attacked and harmed by their readers, who misinterpreted their message(s). This is why you, as a writer, should always remember that everybody does not have the ability to read and comprehend messages.
Causes of Comprehension Disability
Sometimes writers are the cause of comprehension barriers faced by their readers. This could be as a result of the way they put words together or the type of words they chose. Some writers deliberately create ambiguity in their writings because they wanted to achieve some effects through that. Some erroneously use idioms that mean something different to their readers. But in most cases, lack of textual comprehension is the fault of readers.
- Poor Vocabulary
This is one of the major causes of poor comprehension in many adults. It is made more difficult by the daily invention of new words and giving new meanings to old ones. For instance, as more discoveries and technological inventions are made, more words are released into a language. Hence, the presence of unfamiliar words in writings may prove challenging to some people. This is not to say that a person must be a walking dictionary before he can assimilate meanings from texts. However, knowledge of the basic words used in daily communication can go a long way in making comprehension easier. Hence, writers may need to normalize using simple terms used for daily communication.
- Poor Logical Thinking
People that belong to this group find it difficult to obtain information from texts even though their vocabulary level is high. Those that don’t understand instructions belong to this group. But the major problem with this type of readers surfaces when the need to analyse information from a piece of writing comes up. They usually find it challenging to pick up clues from messages and solve problems with them. Hence, if they constitute a major percentage of your readers, write clearly and extensively to explain your message/instructions. Do not assume they can read in-between the lines.
This is the bane of many people, both the old and the young. People in this group are too impatient to read. They scan through messages, pick up a few words, guess the intentions of the writer, and then arrive at a conclusion. Most times, their conclusions are wrong. It is because of people like this that writers have devised skimmer-mode, where they highlight the sections of their works that bore the key messages. Hence, if you need to capture people with this problem, write in short paragraphs and include headings and subheadings.
- Lack of Interest
Many people do not want to read, especially if the topic/theme does not capture their interests. People like this only want to read summaries. If they are forced to read, they will scan through the introduction and conclusion and interpret the writing based on their own conception. To capture these people, make your writings short, say 500 words max. You can also use pictures/images to engage their interest.
- Poor Emotional Intelligence
These are the people that easily flare up for any available reasons. They are easily offended. They don’t differentiate between jokes and serious talks. They also can’t decode figurative languages such as idioms, sarcasm, connotations, and proverbs. These people see things literally and hence misinterpret anything said otherwise. If you want to impress them or avoid their melodrama, avoid any form of embellishment in your writings because they will definitely misinterpret you.
Understanding the type of readers your text might attract gives you a clue on how to write. But if you intentionally twist your works to cause ambiguity, you need to develop tough skin to withstand negative reactions that will come from their misinterpretations. However, it will be good if you can make your writing as clear as possible and still maintain its creativity.