Have you ever had a conversation that you were impatiently thinking, ‘Get straight to the point please?’ Just like no one loves to be dragged along in conversations, so readers get weary when what they read does not get to the point easily and quickly enough. Writing with clarity is a major area of concern for whatever kind of writing, be it a book, research paper, article, or letter. Writing with clarity means that your piece is not only straight to the point, but can be understood without so much struggle and re-reads. In this information age, content is constantly being churned out and compete for the readers’ eyes. Ensuring that your writing passes across the desired message with clarity remains prime.
Use Simple Grammar
In your writing, you may be tempted to use new, uncommon big words to pad up your writing. While this may not be necessarily a
detriment danger (notice this example) for clarity, overusing hard grammar will make it unbearable for your audience to read consistently. You definitely do not want to tire your readers by making them refer to a thesaurus dictionary (another example) after every single line of your writing they read. They will probably give up reading in the third attempt to find something simpler to read which they can actually understand without having to refer to a dictionary regularly. The only exception is if your writing is technical and scientific targeted to a specific audience that can actually understand the terminologies used. But for a more general audience, avoid difficult terms and keep it simple.
Avoid Fluff Words
Superfluous and repetitive words clutter writing watering down clarity. Fluff words, also known as filler words and can easily creep in into writing. Look out for pleonasms (words that add no extra meaning to a sentence), tautologies (words and ideas that just repeat meanings of another word), and eliminate unnecessary words. Filler words that are generic and broadly describe something should be avoided such as ‘a lot’, ‘stuff‘, and ‘however’. Some common redundant phrases or words used include:
- ‘In this day and age’ (Use ‘now’ or ‘currently’)
- ‘Considering the fact that’ (simply say ‘considering’. ‘The fact that’ is never necessary)
- ‘As to whether’ (instead, say ‘whether’)
- ‘During the course of’ (‘During’ is enough)
- ‘In the event that’ (use ‘if’)
- ‘First and foremost’ (use either, not both)
- ‘Each and every’ (use either, not both)
- ‘And also’ (simply say ‘and’, or ‘also’ or ‘additionally’)
- ‘Different kinds’ (if there are multiple kinds then they are different)
- ‘There is no doubt but that’ (use ‘no doubt’ or ‘doubtless’)
- ‘Used for cooking purposes’ (instead say ‘used for cooking’)
- ‘In a neat manner’ (use ‘neatly’)
- ‘The reason as to why’ (replace with ‘because’)
- ‘Throughout history/sources say’ (be specific with timelines and state exact sources)
Use Active Voice
A sentence in its simple format entails a subject, verb, and object. Active voice usually follows the basic structure whereby the subjects acts upon the verb. Passive voice on the other hand is the subject acted upon by the verb. Active voice has a more direct and clear tone compared to passive voice. For instance, ‘The dog ate the bone’ sounds better compared to ‘The bone was eaten by the dog’. Active voice also passes across a message more precisely, thus improving clarity. While constructing sentences, it is important to take note of whether you are using active. This does not completely discount the use of passive voice which is used in formal, scientific, and legal discussions that may not have a definitive subject- one who is performing the action.
While composing sentences, also be on the lookout for weak adjectives and adverbs that fail to describe the exact meaning. Adjectives describe a noun and using them correctly improves clarity. Use ‘delighted’ vs ‘happy’, ‘stunning’ vs ‘pretty’, ‘clever’ vs ‘brilliant’, and so forth. From the examples, strong adjectives are precise and so improve overall clarity.
Adverbs on the other hand describe verbs. The right adverb is impactful, heightening the moment rather than making obvious the point. Using weak adverbs add no value to your writing and further harms clarity. Avoid using weak adverbs like; “very” or “really”. Instead of saying, ‘He ran very quickly’ to describe speed, use instead, ‘He sprinted’. A huge difference can be noted just by eradicating use of weak adverbs.
The Bottom Line . . .
Reread your work to make the text in each paragraph clearer, cleaner, and progressive. This usually means cutting down a sentence, eliminating words, or replacing phrases. Considering that we tend to be biased when it comes to editing our work, we may find it hard to let go of some words or overlook mistakes. Solution: Submit your writing today for editing!