Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Compose in the Simplest Language Possible

When you start with complex ideas expressed with complex language using complex sentence structure, you make your job as a writer a lot harder than it has to be.

How many of you read that 29-word sentence and actually understood it? Exactly.

You can't engage readers if they don't easily understand you. And I'm sorry, but readers simply won't slog through a 29-word run-on sentence like the one at the top of this post. They'll just roll their eyes and leave.

Show more mercy to your readers, and get to work. Strip down your language to its barest, simplest essence. Eliminate all compound verbs. Break each sentence down until it's free of jargon, free of complexity, and as clearly stated as possible.

This process doesn't just make your ideas fully comprehensible to you. It is also a crucial step toward making your ideas fully comprehensible to everyone else.

And even if you love your flowery writing, simplify it anyway. You can always add back some verbal ornamentation later. If you must.

If your ideas are still intriguing when they're sitting there naked, stripped of fancy words and complicated sentences, that's a really good sign. It means you've probably got something worth sharing with an audience.