Power of Clean and Clear Writing
The theme today is Keep It Simple, StoryTeller.
This summer, as we host the Fictionary Certified StoryCoach program, the editors in the program have all agreed to share writing advice.
The first editor is Larry Paz. Over to Larry…
Keep It Simple, Storyteller
I’ll bet you heard of the KISS method. If not, here is my version. “Keep It Simple, Storyteller“. When I facilitate my writing group, I promote this phrase at every session. Results are more complicated than it seems. Many writers capture their stream of consciousness and rambling thoughts, which may or not be clear and concise. Most writers find their rewrite is significant to gain simplicity and focus. Teamwork between writer and editor can help attain an understandable manuscript.
Let’s define our terms
- Clean writing uses precise words and eliminates extraneous words and phrases.
- Clear writing is easily understood by your reader.Your reader will benefit from the power of clean and clear writing. Both are essential for your reader to understand your message. It may challenge even an accomplished reader to grasp complex terminology.
I realize Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a classic. This past week I labored through the story. I’m an above-average reader and struggled not to edit it. Rather than focused, I found the writing convoluted and cumbersome and wanted to simplify the language. Her reference to the same character by different names within a passage was confusing and caused me to reread many passages.
Let’s look at seven writing examples for the power of clean and clear writing:
It is the writers’ responsibility to communicate their thoughts clearly. When a reader becomes confused, there is a high probability that they will stop reading. Naturally, this is not a desirable outcome for either the writer or reader. A successful writer will want to bring the reader along on a journey that is informative and interesting.
Cluttered Thinking (Clean)
Aggressively attack fillers that do not contribute to your reader’s understanding of your story. Unclutter your writing style. Focus on ideas that contribute to the crux of your story. Get rid of words and phrases that slip into your writing and confuse your reader. Avoid sentences that roam through your prose.
Here is an example of a roaming sentence:
“Chris went over to the back of the dog park to see if there was a shovel that he could use to fill up all of the holes that had been dug up by dogs during the day.”
Look at this clutter-free alternative:
“Dogs dug holes during the day. Chris looked around the dog park for a shovel to fill in the holes.”
“Don’t judge the book by its cover.” “They are just the tip of the iceberg.” You get the message. Every writer has to avoid clichés. They are inactive, tiresome, and tedious. When you use a cliché, you’re missing an opportunity to be unique and unpretentious. Make your prose authentic. Make sure your story is unforgettable.
Clarify and condense your meaning.
Eliminate the padding. Stick to your point.
When you review your work, ask these questions:
- “Did you write and send the message you intended?”
- “Have you simplified your writing so your reader can easily follow your thoughts?”
- “Have you eliminated clichés, worn-out phrases, and wordiness?”
- “Have you examined each sentence to ensure your story is clear and concise?”
- “How can you clarify your meaning in fewer words?”
Inconsistent Terminology (Consistent Terminology)
Getting your ideas from your words to the reader means transmitting those ideas from your brain to theirs. The writer must communicate key facts, logical opinions, and reasonable conclusions in an organized way to recreate your thoughts in your reader’s mind. Using consistent terminology will help your reader follow your thinking and understand your message. Note: It is also helpful if you logically organize your ideas. And this gets us back to the power of clean and clear writing.
Inconsistent terminology can cause miscommunication. Overstating or embellishing an event may limit the importance of the information. Consistent language ensures you will address important segments, stabilize your arguments, and encourage your reader to stay with you. If your character or setting contains conflicting information, you may confuse the reader.
Another element of consistency is ensuring you connect your ideas. Disconnected ideas will often confuse the reader rather than create curiosity. Confusion is the enemy of clarity.
Inconsistent – The blogger submitted his work every Monday by eight in the morning. The writer rarely missed his deadline.
Consistent – The blogger submitted his work every Monday by eight in the morning. The blogger rarely missed his deadline.
Disconnected – Mary said,” I want to lose weight.” Mary went to the buffet table and loaded her plate with generous portions of the many foods.
Connected – Mary said,” I want to lose weight.” Mary went to the buffet table and selected a sensible selection of fruits and vegetables.
A writer whose sentences and paragraphs ramble on without a clear and focused point confuses the reader. It is best to organize your thoughts by establishing your key point and give supporting data. This was a favorite comment of my newspaper editor and caused me to rewrite many of my early submissions.
Disarray -Mary went out in the courtyard while her dog, Daisy, whined and jumped up on the door to look out the window while Mary cleaned the courtyard using a broom then washed down the floor with the water hose which hung on the wall beside the chocolate brown chair.
Organized -Mary stepped into the courtyard to clean the floor. She used a broom to sweep up the loose dirt and then sprayed the floor using the water hose. While she cleaned the floor, her dog, Daisy, jumped up on the door and watched her through the window.
Precise words are more straightforward to understand than vague words.
So what are “precise” words?
Words that describe our senses are precise; see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
Vague words are more difficult to imagine.
Vague – “Chris, go to the store and get me some supplies.”
Precise – “Chris, go to the store and get me a pound of butter, a dozen eggs, and a loaf of honey wheat bread.”
Vague – Sam overpowered his opponent.”
Precise -Sam used a 7-inch dagger to disable his opponent.”
Vague -“I need to consider my to-do list.”
Precise – “I’m going to write my to-do list and mark each item as I complete the task.”
Complex (Simple and focused)
At the risk of being redundant, let’s examine this – Don’t.
When your writing uses the power of clean and clear, you will flourish. Many of us, that includes me, show off our proclivity 😊with the language we learned. I remember my Dad leaning over the kitchen table, reading the dictionary when I came home after a date. Indubitably, he gave me the word of the day. Under my high school graduation picture was the expression, “How strong an influence in well-placed words.”
As a young man in my early business career, I assumed I needed to live up to my interpretation of these influences. I wrote letters to customers. After reading one of my literary gems, my manager called me into his office and reviewed my prose as follows. “Tell the customer what you want them to know, not what you know.” I’ve been working on it ever since. It “ain’t” easy.
Complex – The part you sent back to us was damaged by a person who dented this while they had it in their possession; therefore, we feel no obligation to replace this part at no charge.
Simple -The dent on the part you returned is not a manufacturing defect. We can offer you a replacement at dealer cost less 45% discount ($895- 403 = $492). Please let us know if you want to accept this courtesy offer.
Plagiarism (Own Work)
Cambridge English Dictionary defines plagiarism as the “process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own.” If you represent someone else’s language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions as your original work, this is a no-no and dishonest.
If you research your topic, it may tempt you to use another writer’s work. If you do, state the quote and acknowledge the owner. Otherwise, capture the thought or concept in your own words and phraseology.
You could inadvertently express preexisting thoughts, so as a good faith effort, use a plagiarism check. I always use Grammarly’s Plagiarism check before submitting my original or edited work for publication. Yes, even this one. I cleared muster.
Original quote – “Concrete language is clearer and easier to grasp than abstract language.” “20 Rules for Writing So Crystal Clear Even Your Dumbest Relative Will Understand” by Glen Long
Reworked statement – Precise words are more straightforward to understand than vague words.
So, how did I do? Did I make my case for the Power of Clean and Clear writing? And do you like Keep It Simple, Storyteller? Or, do you want to be a Jane Austen write- alike?
Author, Editor, Educator
My name is Larry, and I am excited to be part of Fictionary and provide you with this information. I have many years of professional editorial and writing experience. As an experienced facilitator and editor for a professional writer’s group, I edit in the style and voice of the writer. Here is a bit more about me.
- News reporter, magazine editor, teacher, and publisher of nonfiction and fiction.
- Actively involved as owner/operator and partner of several businesses including: education and training, recruiting, restaurants, marble products, quilting, computer systems design, web development, and media development.
- Earned bachelor and master’s degrees from Boston University and Virginia Commonwealth University in Management, Marketing, and Information Systems.
Please visit my website www.swlmedia.com to learn about our services.
Fictionary Certified StoryCoach Training
The Fictionary StoryCoach Certification training program helps editors deliver a comprehensive and objective editorial package using StoryCoach software. This program is for anyone wanted to be the best structural editor for fiction.
We developed the training for two reasons.
- The first is for fiction editors to have a place to learn how to perform a high-quality story edit, get certified, and then have a tool (StoryCoach) that helps them perform exceptional story edits.
- The second is for writers to know they are dealing with a professional editor who understands story when they hire a Fictionary Certified StoryCoach.
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