Model physicist Richard Feynman’s piece
So you think your subject is complex? Try taking on the topic of nanotechnology.
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?