Monday, January 09, 2023

What is Clear Writing and How Can It Help You Be a Better Writer?

Good writing is clear thinking made visible.

Bill Wheeler.

Some reasons why you need to write clearly:

  1. You might be writing a letter or email to a friend.
  2. You might be writing a thesis or doing some academic writing or publishing in a journal.
  3. You might be at work and you need to create a presentation or write an email explaining your thoughts on a particular matter.
  4. You might be the owner of a business and need to write a strategy plan, or maybe you're bringing in some changes to your company.
  5. You might be a marketer online, or you may need to create a new brochure for the company you work for.
  6. You might be a teacher that needs to write a lesson plan.
  7. You might be a student with an important essay to write.

Writing is part of life and for most people writing isn't something that comes naturally.  One of the first things you need to understand is that you're writing for an or a particular reader.

It stands to reason that you use your own thoughts and feelings when you start writing, but you need to understand that writing is a two way street, and it should be more about the reader than the writer.  The reader is the one that has to understand the message that is being put out.  

Writing in a Nutshell

To put it simply, writing is all about putting your thoughts and feelings into someone else's head.  The words, grammar and punctuation are the tools to make that happen.

Making It Work 

The best place to start when you want to write clearly is being able to understand what it is that you're trying to say or put forward to other people. 

Once you've decided on your message you need to think about who your audience is and how you want to convey your message to them.  Which is why the reader always comes first when you write.

This is where grammar, punctuation and sentence structure comes in and the kind of language you're going to use.  Are you writing simply, or are you writing something that's going to be more complicated and intricate like an academic paper?  These are all valid questions that need answering.  

If you're writing a how-to style article then you want your audience to learn something, if you're writing an academic paper you're using in-depth knowledge you've been taught and you transfer that knowledge into a paper or thesis.

Making Yourself Understood to the Reader

You're audience won't amount to much if you can't put your message into words. Which is why clarity is the key to good writing.  

Your audience will soon tell you if your writing is too ambiguous or boring.

This is where a conversational style of writing can help your writing look much clearer.  And it won't feel like you're talking down to your audience.

Easy Reading Means Hard Writing

The harder you work to make your writing simple and clear the more people you'll have reading it.  People seek out information on a daily basis, and often look for information they can simply skim through. If your structure and language is hard to follow this will make the process twice as hard.  So people will simply pass by your work and not even bother because your writing isn't clear enough.

Content vs. Context

You're writing for humans not robots and humans have their own information and beliefs.  Talking at your readers and talking to your readers are two completely different things.  People will listen if you're talking to them, but they'll switch off when they know they're being talked at.  

When you write clearly you can help people to:

  • Show how a job can be done.
  • Show people something completely new.
  • Offer advice to people.
  • Show people how to stay safe and look after others.
  • Show people how to use products and services.
  • Show people new ideas and concepts.
  • Tell people about what you believe.
  • Tell people about new complicated ideas in an easy-to-read fashion.

In your own life you may be required to write emails to people in a large organisation that you work for, or you might be writing personal letters to friends and family. 

General chit chat and conversation calls for a level of clarity to enable you to put your message across.

Clear writing is a huge part of many people's lives and they probably don't even realise it.

Writing Clearly is Challenging

Being able to get your message across in a clear no nonsense kind of way is a challenge in itself.  

If you have something that you feel may be controversial or complex you need to be able to express it in a way that won't scare your audience.  This is clear writing.

That's where language and grammar comes in, and the English language is one of the hardest languages for anyone to understand (including an English person).  

Language is constantly changing, and people have shorter and shorter attention spans.  You're never going to please everyone.  At the end of the day all you can do is write and discover what your audience enjoys reading, and in the meantime continue honing your writing skills.

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Read more:

Self-Care for Writers

How to Writer Powerful Headlines

6 Reasons Why "Just Write" is the Best Advice for Writers

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