April 28, 2017

Make even nanotechnology accessible

Model physicist Richard Feynman’s piece

So you think your subject is complex? Try taking on the topic of nanotechnology.

Make even nanotechnology accessible

Make the complex simple Model techniques used by Richard Feynman Image by The Manic Macrographer

That’s the subject of “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom: An Invitation to Enter a New Field of Physics,” a classic speech by Richard Feynman, one of the most influential American physicists of the 20th century.

Study it — then steal his approaches for making even physics more accessible. Among them:

1. Use concrete examples from the audience member’s  world.

“Why cannot we write the entire 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica on the head of a pin?” Feynman asks.

2. Use familiar words.

Of the nearly 7,000 words in Feynman’s talk, my spell-checker tripped over only a handful. Most were people’s names. The others: “demagnify,” “carotenoids” and “microsome.” That’s .04 percent of the total number of words.

3. Use short words.

Feynman’s words averaged 4.4 characters each. That’s well under my recommendation of no more than 5 characters on average.

4. Make reading easy.

Feynman’s piece weighs in at the ninth grade level according to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level index. (I recommend keeping this score in the single digits.) And it scores an amazing 62.5 percent on Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease index. (I recommend aiming for 50 on this one.)

In short, Feynman’s piece is much easier to read than virtually all of the business communications I review.

How does your copy — regardless of the topic — stack up against Feynman’s?

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