LESSON WRITING Get your point across - Clear writing, from a technical writer


Dead men tell no tales.
Original poster
Don't mince words.

This is a 'top-tips' on clear writing.

Save your best work for the parts that matter and show the 'hook' that will catch a reader. These tips are relevant to science, law, policy, training manuals, business, and grant writing. Creative writing has the flexibility for a writer to bend or break the rules as a stylistic choice, but knowing when and how to break the rules is crucial.

Put the TL;DR upfront. Most readers want specific, actionable information.

If you find yourself ending with a 'conclusion' or summary then paste that bad boy right at the top as-is.

We write to get a point across, so being brief is a blessing when it comes to being understood. Readers shouldn't have to go hunting for important information. A reader can decide their level of interest and keep reading to the details if they like what they see.

Restructure your commas.

If you find yourself putting a comma in the middle of two sentences then flip them around and take the comma out.

You cannot control cadence (pace/rhythm) of a sentence like you can when speaking, and a reader's interpretation may differ. The ups, downs, pauses, and tonal cues you might use in a 'persuasive speech' get lost in the written word.

Stick to the same term.

One thing should have one name.

Readers keep a running list in their head of important names, places, and descriptions. It will frustrate a reader to keep in their head 'the man', 'the soldier', and 'the fool' when these are all the same character. Using the same term for a thing will cue the reader to recall specific details, descriptions, and timelines for that term.

If it doesn't need to be said, don't say it.

A reader's interpretation may differ from yours.

A reader is capable of immense creativity and has a wealth of experience to draw from. They will fill in the blanks in a way that suits them. Letting a reader decide on details will empower their reading experience and make them feel like you really get them. You may have a specific image in your head of, for example: time, place, sound, accents, faces, number of fingers, hair colour, etc. Most of these have no impact on story themes or character interactions. You already write with a degree of ambiguity when you don't mention every one of these for every character.

Cut for conciseness:
  • Use Plain English - Use simple words, because most readers aren't encyclopaedias.
  • Introduce things before referencing them - If we are talking about a rose, it goes 'a rose' and then 'the/that rose'.
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