Have you ever read a book, report or other piece of literature only to feel you have no clue what the author was talking about? You may read the same lines over and over asking yourself, “Okay, wait. What is he/she trying to say here?” Another frustrating reading experience occurs when you understand what the writer is saying but the sentences lack detail, leaving you with unanswered questions.
Clarity is a key element to successful writing. If you’re a budding author, you’ll want to avoid being overly loquacious and aim for being clear, instead. Unless you’re writing a very specific type of fiction or prose that lends itself to waxing on literarily, for most writers, it’s best to get a clear message across in as few words as possible. This post provides three helpful tips to improve clarity in your writing:
If an action is occurring in a sentence, let readers know who’s doing it
If readers can’t determine who’s doing something or who is supposed to be doing something, then your writing lacks clarity. You can write that the door was opened to a stranger standing on the stoop. Your readers will immediately wonder who opened the door. For clarity’s sake, tell them up front. “The housemaid opened the door to a stranger standing on the stoop.”
This enables a reader to imagine the scene in a more vivid, precise way than would be possible if you do not state who is doing the action. Stating who is doing or supposed to be doing things in your writing isn’t limited to works of fiction. For example, if you post a notice on a bulletin board saying, “Tickets will be sold on Monday at noon,” it doesn’t provide enough information. Who is selling them? For what? Where?
It would be clearer if you were to write, “The baseball team will be selling raffle tickets in the gymnasium on Monday, at noon, for a chance to win $100.” It’s true that more words were necessary for the second sentence. It’s also true, however, that the second sentence is clearer than the first.
Cut to the chase in your opening paragraph
Otherwise known as “get to the point.” It’s best to avoid leading up to a main idea with six or seven fluff sentences. Instead, let readers know right away what you want them to know. If you’re writing an article about how to improve driving safety at intersections, let readers know that from the start. Rather than losing clarity with a big build-up that’s not necessary, just cut to the chase with an opening sentence like this one: “There are three things you can do to improve driving safety at intersections.”
Writing is clearer when you let readers know why something matters
Something you never want your readers to say after reading a sentence is “So, what?” You can add clarity to your writing if you include details that answer the “So, what?” question before it’s asked. For instance, if you write that you noticed more sunlight on one side of your new home, the reader might not care or might wonder why you feel it’s important to share that information.
A sentence would be clearer with additional information, such as the following example: Because the left side of the house seems to get more sunlight, I have decided to plant the vegetable garden there.
If your writing lacks clarity, readers will feel frustrated or bored, neither of which is conducive to becoming a profitable author. Aim for clarity and watch your following grow! And, while you’re working on clarity, check out this helpful post to avoid other common mistakes writers often make.