Sunday, April 05, 2009

5 Shortcuts to Writing with Clarity

by Karen Reddick

I believe that no sentence should ever require a second reading, unless the writing captivates to the point of re-reading for the sheer joy of it.

Sort, rearrange, and refine your prose until you can say what you mean, and mean what you say with as few words as possible.

Here are five shortcuts to writing with clarity:

1. Read your rough draft aloud. Confusing sentences become obvious when you hear your copy spoken.

2. Add some periods. Clearly written sentences don't ramble needlessly. Modify your wording to create additional sentences.

3. Think about context. Help your readers understand concepts by placing them in historical, geographical, or categorical context. Don't jump around from one thought to the next without making clear the who, what, when, where.

4. Attach your pronouns. Puzzling pronouns play a large part in clouding your meaning. "It" and "they" are among the worst offenders. When polishing your rough draft, pause every time you encounter either "it" or "they" and check to see what it's supposed to represent.

5. Watch your tenses. Be careful not to flit from one tense to another. Nothing confuses a reader more than switching from past tense to present tense and back again. Simple past tense is most commonly used and is recommended for most writing

Happy Writing!-- Karen Reddick, The Red Pen Editor

Reference: Hart, J. A Writer's Coach, 2006, New York: Pantheon Books


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