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Walking the Assumptions Tightrope

Do you find yourself Googling up words, phrases and especially jargon, when reading blog posts? I do. It happened to me about ten minutes ago.

One of my current projects requires getting elbow-deep in Drupals innards. Drupal is a fantastic blog/community/content management platform. It has a vibrant community, that is very helpful. Quite often though the community is so soaked in the software, and so used to dealing with other Drupal experts, they make all sorts of assumptions when providing help or writing articles.

It’s geeks such as myself who are probably the worst culprits for this so it took experiencing the problem for myself to provide this wake-up call. Assuming your audience has certain knowledge can stunt the growth and acceptance of your writing. There is only so much of this frustration people will take before unsubscribing from a feed.

One way to deal with words that might not be well-known is to link to a definition or web site. There are plugins and widgets that allow you to link words to pop-up definition windows, these can also help, but I think a better solution is to write for maximum understanding. Clarity in your writing is a good habit to get into.

Having said that it is possible to go too far the other way and end up patronising your audience. Some assumptions are safe to make, for example that you know what a computer is. Where do you draw the line?  For some things you can use your best judgement. There might be ways to drop the definition into the flow without it looking like you are talking down to the reader. My best solution is to ask for people you know to read over your post and point out anything that needs further explanation. Unfortunately people don’t often email to ask for something explaining, perhaps for fear of looking stupid.

I would like your feedback, how do you deal with this?, please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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