The Guide to Clear and Concise Writing

The Guide to Clear and Concise Writing

As National Novel Writing Month ends, the beginning of the holiday season strikes. The time of the year has come where you embark on reading stories about obnoxious gingerbread men, elves that watch naughty children, talking turkeys, and an incessant use of the word ‘Tis.’

You find yourself watching terribly scripted made for TV holiday movies and ridiculous commercials that make you want to poke your eyeballs out. Now, imagine having to read this stuff year round.

It’s a safe bet you would never again read or watch TV, and the survival of your eyeballs would be debatable.

As you feast your eyes on your NaNoWriMo work, or set your sights on your next writing project, it’s important to focus on the importance of clear and concise writing. Let’s take a minute and review some important tips that will help you prepare a fresh and crisp piece of writing for your readers.

Illustrate a Purpose

Step One: Know what the hell you’re talking about!

You cannot expect your audience to figure out your purpose. Instead, you need to show them through your writing.

The key is executing a solid plan and polishing the final result. Everything from beginning to end is a process, however, if you have an idea of how you want things to flow, it will make the process smoother. And should you find yourself struggling, an editor is sure to become your best unbiased friend.

Have a System

Developing a writing process is important, especially when writing fiction.

From the moment you begin mapping your story to typing ‘the end,’ it’s important to have a consistent routine in your writing. This will help you develop the story and allow for a clearer picture of what you want to convey.

Know Basic Grammar

If you cannot spell without auto correct or don’t know the difference between their and there, then it may be time to brush up on basic grammar.

Misspelled words, missed punctuation, and wordy sentences make for a tough read. Check out The University of Wisconsin’s Writer’s Handbook. It’s a great tool for reviewing grammar and syntax.

Don’t be Repetitive

Remember when you were a kid, and you would learn new vocabulary words? You hated your teacher for making you write or say them over and over again. So imagine how your reader feels if you say how much Bobby loved Sally twenty different ways.

Don’t alienate your audience. Make the point and move on.

And don’t try to be clever by saying the same thing later on in a fancy, flowery sentence. No matter how you try to conceal it, your audience will pick up on redundancy like hounds on the hunt.

Elegant Vocabulary

Elegant is another way of saying fancy, hence the point.

If your readers are spending more time using the dictionary to figure out what a word means instead of interacting with the story, then you have completely missed the mark. A few unorthodox words are all a good story needs.

Eliminate Wordiness

If your sentences actually look like the one you are reading right now, then you totally know how your reader feels when you write sentences like this, and you should probably clean them up by trimming them down.

Wordiness alienates and confuses the audience. The shortest sentences have the most impact.

Talk to Your Audience

When writing your piece, keep your audience firmly in mind.

Think about when you read a book to a child. You make it exciting and bring it alive by becoming a voice over actor. The child engages with the book because you engage with it.

Use the same approach when writing. Use an active voice by making the characters and objects on the page come alive. Utilize all five senses, be present, and engage with your audience.

Don’t Be a Liar

Regardless of what type of story you are telling, be sure your audience can trust what is on the page.

If everything is like a melodramatic soap opera, then you have already lost credibility. If you are writing fiction, remember that your characters are the most credible witnesses to the story.

The Finishing Touches

Once your piece is complete and you think you have it in a polished state, read it out loud. If you are bored or notice repetition, fix it.

There’s nothing wrong with letting someone else read it either. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a step back and let someone else grab the reins.

Writing can be a frustrating, rugged, and somehow beautiful process. It drives you made yet feels oddly relaxing.

Remember, no one is perfect. No writer is flawless. And there is no precisely right or precisely wrong way to write, just a practical one. How do you ensure your writing is clear and concise?

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