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Clear and Concise: Why Good Design Only Needs a Few Words

It is a problem that plagues our industry: too many architects and designers find it challenging to write. As visual learners and thinkers, we often overlook the importance of good architectural writing. The steady decline of writing skills in the field of architecture is, at times, worrisome. Unclear specifications can lead to numerous revisions; and technical ambiguity can have destructive, results on construction contracts. Not to mention the headaches that result from miscommunications.

Native English speakers are not exempt from this epidemic. The majority of architectural writing, from project proposals to concept write-ups, suffer from common and ubiquitous language traps. Jargon is a big problem! Sometimes we don't take the time to sit down and really reflect on the language we are using.

Why does good writing matter in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Design?

When drafting project proposals or presenting a design concept, clear and concise communication matters. The ability to explain your project successfully can help secure clients and even help you win architectural awards, boosting your marketability as a designer. However, besides the practical profits of good writing skills, anyone who practices the profession of architecture has the responsibility to encourage design that makes the world a better place.

Writing and Design are Inseparable

Whether you’re a student or a practitioner, writing is essential to our craft. Unfortunately, many people who entered this profession were unprepared and ill-equipped to write. Native English speaker architects often struggle to communicate their ideas verbally, but the challenge is even more prohibitive for ESL learners.

How to Craft Clear, Concise and Compelling Writing

One main language pitfall that plagues architectural writing is the use of fluff. This is often a consequence of limited vocabulary. Knowing technical language not only makes you sound more professional, it likewise improves your ability to discuss your design. Here are some ways to help you craft clear, concise and compelling writing.

1 Expand Your Vocabulary and avoid using complicated jargon if it is not necessary

Verbosity is a casualty of a lack of vocabulary. This is why learning essential words in architecture and design are critical for expanding your ability to communicate effectively. This is not to say that you should use big words; instead, an extensive vocabulary will enable you to express your ideas with simple yet concise language. I've already made a good list of books to help you with your architectural writing. Make sure you understand exactly what it is your saying when you're using words and ask yourself, could there be a simpler way to say something?

For example: "The house is highly programmed." This could be written more simply as:

"The house is packed with rooms of various uses.

Tip: Find a website of an architect, landscape architect or interior designer you admire. See if you can find examples of jargon that could be written more simply. Ask someone outside the architecture industry if they understand what it means. If they say no, try to explain it to them in simple words.

2 Read Books, Magazines and Blogs about Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Design

Expanding your vocabulary entails reading. Books, magazines and even blogs are a productive resource to help you learn new words relating to the field of architecture. Architectural literature will expose you to new words, from adjectives to describe form or verbs to convey the design process. Use these examples as your own models for writing. I often tell my students to find the practices you admire and analyse the ways they write and try to incorporate the best parts of their writing into your own.

3 Watch Architecture videos on YouTube and Documentaries with Subtitles

It comes as no surprise - architects, landscape architects and designers are visual individuals. There are plenty of documentaries and movies about architecture and design that, in addition to being enjoyable, can help equip you with an arsenal of new words to express your design ideas. You can check out our list of recommended video resources and follow the blog for our free video lessons to learn architectural vocabulary.

Good Design Only Needs a Few Words

Writing is meant to augment your design, not explain it. Architect Alan Berman, who wrote about what he believes to be qualities of outstanding architectural writing, said it best:

“Architectural writing should aid everyone’s understanding of buildings and assist architects to design better ones.”

Learning new vocab with our Words of the Day:

ubiquitous: (adjective) present, appearing, or found everywhere.

verbosity: (noun) the quality of using more words than needed; wordiness.

jargon: special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group that can be difficult for others to understand.


Want to seriously uplevel your writing and start building the confidence you deserve? Find out more about my 1:1 coaching programs and follow me on Instagram for daily tips and English lessons.

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