Friday, January 13, 2012

The Importance of Clarity

     This rule is important for any writing--books, articles, or reports for work.     
     Every experienced writer has a few golden rules they swear are absolutely, vitally important. These rules range from, "Keep it short," to "Write your completely unfiltered thoughts without inhibition."
     This post is about one of my all important rules. It's my mantra.
     Clarity. It matters more on a basic level than humor, beauty, show-offy skill, spot-on characters, or an engrossing plot. Clarity comes first. If a story's words or meaning are muddled, the reader will just stop reading. Your boss will love you if you can write clear reports that leave no doubt in his mind about what you're saying.
     Here are some ideas to think about when you're trying to keep your writing from getting fuzzy:
  • Using clear verbs will help a lot in this quest for clarity. For example, instead of "Winthrop went down the street," write, "Winthrop walked," or "Winthrop ran," or "Winthrop  tore up the pavement in his hurry." This will give a picture in your reader's head.
  • Don't clog sentences down with images. Famous writers can get away with page long sentences and long, rambling descriptions; we can't. Today's market likes one, maybe two clear images that get the point across. Television has shortened our attention span (not that I'm tv-bashing).
  • Just like tons of descriptions will quickly lose readers, tons of adjectives will as well. "White, puffy, cumulus clouds floated across the sky like giant marshmellows, clearing any worries about storms from my mind." This sentence isn't bad, but I only really need one descriptive word about the clouds to get my point across--that the clouds are friendly and not threatening.
  • Too much punctuation. This is a big problem of mine. I load my sentences with commas and try to fit too much into them. It's better to write two clear sentences than one long, rambling one.
  • Often, simpler is better.  
     For great tips on how to avoid the problem of muddled prose, I  recommend, this post on "overwriting."
     Also, don't forget about the free breadmaking class on Jan. 21st!
     Thanks for stopping in! Now get writing! :)

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