If your goal is optimal clarity in the least amount of time when communicating complex information, what is the best way to present that information?

Clearly, tables, lists, and using certain tones, concise wording, etc. can help make complex information easier to understand.

I'm looking for resources - webpages and/or books, which have people who have given this subject intense thought and came up with some good ideas.

Take this sentence for example: If you own a dog and/or cat and bird or fish, then you qualify for a prize!

It's not immediately clear what you need to qualify, does it mean that if you own only a fish then you qualify? Does it mean that if you own a dog and/or cat and bird, or a dog and/or cat and fish, you qualify?

If you presented it in list form, it would be clearer:

If you own a:

  • dog and fish or;
  • cat and fish or;
  • dog and bird or;
  • cat and bird

Then you qualify for a prize!

It might be even clearer or more concise in a structured table with implied AND operator, or something. I'm just looking for resources on this subject.


In advertising and on the internet, visual clarity is of the essence. Here, lists are used to make text comprehensible in the short attention spans that the audience has for this medium.

In printed media, especially outside of glossy magazines with a heavy visual focus, lists are for lists, tables are for tabular data, and a sentence is for narration or argumentation. Here, the format has a meaning, and you should not misuse it, because that will confuse your readers.

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