I was surprised when I first saw this at the park.
And I’ve seen it again at other parks in my local area.
It’s what I think of as a ‘modern swing’.
This one is part of a play equipment upgrade.
The old playground was ripped out and replaced with brighter, safer and newer pieces.
Sometimes bigger too.
The swing above is one of a group of six in a circle formation.
Each one is spaced out and faces the others.
It was the horizontal chain across the middle that caught my attention.
I wasn’t sure of its role on the swing.
And I’m still not 100% certain I understand what it does and why it’s there.
Is it a protective strap to stop kids from falling backwards? Or forwards?
Perhaps it is designed so children intuitively know how it functions or can quickly figure it out themselves?
Some things come with instructions about how they perform or what to do with them.
Or as we know, some don’t.
Which might explain my puzzled look at the park.
This sign below communicates with pictures and one word. I think it’s telling us that the shared path for bikes and people ends here.
Is it explicit enough so everyone would come to the same conclusion?
Writing to communicate
Most parks (certainly in my area) don’t come with detailed information about how to engage with and enjoy the equipment.
It goes against the purpose of play – that is, allowing children to be creative while developing skills such as dexterity and imagination, and strengthening their bodies and brains.
In fact, you’re more likely to see signs with messages telling people what NOT to do.
Whether it’s a sign or a business communication such as an email or article, writing a message can be very effective when it considers the reader.
- Does it tell them something important or useful?
- Is it written in a way that helps sell the message?
- Is it presented clearly?
Here are three things to consider when preparing your messages to determine how they will look and sound:
1. Make it easy to read
American copywriter Bob Bly dedicates an entire chapter in The Copywriter’s Handbook to writing to communicate and offers 11 excellent tips for writing clear copy.
But right before he launches into the list, he shows an example of a magazine ad with a scenario that lacks clarity, which he dubs: ‘maximum confusion and minimum communication’.
It’s a great term, and a reminder to aim for the opposite – write for minimum confusion and maximum communication.
Readers can get confused when they encounter jargon, big words or clichés.
Clear writing succeeds because it’s easy to understand and follow.
It eliminates roadblocks such as long sentences, complicated words or phrases, and ambiguous meaning that can stop people reading because they have to pause and think.
2. Write with a clear goal
When it comes to writing copy, words are used to achieve different goals:
- Persuade readers to buy a product or service
- Build authority and credibility
- Create brand awareness
- Educate or entertain readers
Whatever it is, have a clear goal before you start writing to figure out what you want your audience to get out of reading the copy.
Even copy made up of simple phrases can still become muddled if your purpose lacks clarity.
The first sentence should be crafted to get readers to read the second sentence, and then the next one, and so on.
And wrap it all up by telling your readers what action to take next and how.
Without a call to action, or written prompt, there’s no command to do something specific.
When writing, is it clear and intuitive what people should do, or would your copy benefit from easy-to-follow prompts?
Think of my confusion at the swings. Don’t leave people hanging!
3. Ensure your words stand out
Think about how your words will be presented.
Used effectively, the following techniques can help organise words and create focus:
- White space – use space around paragraphs to make content more inviting and avoid overwhelming the eyes
- Subheadings – make it easy for people to read and scan
- Images and captions – break up the text and add colour and interest
- Dot points – make lists or detailed descriptions stand out
Think of your reader or user, and use words and pictures to communicate in the best possible way.