Writing for clarity

Writing that is lively and engaging is writing for clarity: it will capture your audience! But how do you do that?

One of my most valuable word processing tools is the word count function: I flog it like a work horse every time I write. It’s amazing how you can tighten your writing if you enforce a word limit on your writing. Very easily we become bogged down by words and phrases that could be expressed more succinctly and economically. But imposing the discipline of a word count ensures that every word has to pull its weight and do its work.writing for clarity

Bureaucratic writing often suffers not only from passive writing, but also from obtuse words and phrases. This can be heavy going for a reader. Writing for clarity and using an active voice not only makes it more engaging, but also reduces the number of words. Readers can skip from phrase to phrase and focus on what you are saying rather than getting hindered by how you are saying it.

Let’s look at a real life example:

‘High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process.’

Hmmm! What does that mean? How often did you need to read it? Doesn’t that tell you something about the clarity of the writing? And it might suggest a number of things about the writer: they needed to fill a word count but didn’t have much to say; they wanted to impress their boss with a number of weasel words*; or maybe they didn’t really want their reader to understand after all!

If you really want your audience to understand, why not write:

            ‘Children need good schools if they are to learn properly.’

Just look at how much easier that is to understand—I can move on to the next sentence!

If you check every phrase and prune every sentence, making sure that every word is doing its work, you’ll find your writing far clearer as well as more lively and engaging.


Want to know more? This is an extract from the Writing and editing workshops run by Infoquest Pty Ltd.