Thursday, April 10, 2008

Writing Is Easy: Clarity Is For Champions!

This is possibly my favorite Calvin & Hobbes strip ever, as it deals with not one but two of my writing pet peeves in one strip! One (the unnecessary proliferation of verbs in our culture--it's like a nuclear arms race in here) I've written about before; the other is the topic of today's entry in the fabulously successful "Writing Is Easy" entries.

Clarity.

It's something we all want, unless we're writing egghead essays to impress college professors (and even then, sometimes dense language foliage isn't welcome). And yet, so many people are downright incoherent in their written communication.

Should you strive for clarity, the solution is, I think, simple: write whatever you want, then take a step back, and edit. This, I fear, is the achilles heel of most writing today, this lack of edit. We've become accustomed to vomiting our thoughts into the internet, or into an email, or onto a Microsoft Word document, and then clicking "Send."

Stop. Wait. Look at what you've written. Read it from your audience's point of view. Does the punctuation make sense? Does it speak the same language your audience speaks? Are you shooting over their heads? Under them? Can you adjust it to be more clear? Combine sentences, perhaps? Or correct run-on sentences? Perhaps you're asking too many questions at once?

You get the point. Step back. Edit. Don't end up like this...

4 comments:

Mark Keefer said...

I love to mouse my way over to your blog and keyboard some comments.

I don't (poor choice of verb here) your frustration with Calvin though.

Adam said...

I totally Calvined that post.

Mark Keefer said...

Ironically, we use edit (or 'cut' in the film biz) interchangeably. I guess they started out as more verby than nouny, but I use them both as nouns all the time.

For example, to the picture dept: "Do you have the third cut of reel one ready yet?"

One sentence later: "Okay, well I have to cut in my effects today, so let me know when your cut is ready."

Yep. Gots-ta love English.

Adam said...

"Hey, Mark? Which cut is the right cut?"
"The one on the right."
"Right?"
"Right."

'Tis a malleable thing, English.