Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thinking in Simple vs. Complex Sentences

Most of us needlessly complicate things when we write--especially when we write about subject areas where we have significant expertise.

It's as if you can't pull yourself out of your own subject matter to see it with your readers' eyes. Your ideas are understandable to you, but to your readers your ideas are needlessly complex.

The cure for this tendency is simple: write your first draft exclusively in simple, short sentences. If any thought or idea comes to you in the form of a compound sentence, break that sentence up immediately.

Later you can always add in complexity, vary your sentence structure and so on. The irony, however, is your writing probably won't need it.

One final thought. There are only two reasons to increase the complexity of a sentence: to better convey your meaning, or to improve the rhythm and cadence of the text. If you complicate your writing for reasons other than that, you're just showing off.

Ideas should never be cloaked. Start with simple and direct language and you'll make life easier--both for you and your readers.