Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Best Writing Is Always Simple

If there's one piece of advice I'd give readers of this blog, it's this: write simply. Use simple, elegant phrases and sentences. Make your point clearly, and strip out everything else.

This means strip out all modifiers and compound verbs. Eliminate wimpy verbal qualifiers. Nuke expressions of doubt. And double nuke double negatives.

An example. Here's a sentence I wrote in a first draft of a post here at Quick Writing Tips:

This doesn't mean you can't make a complex argument, or that your argument can't contain a number of intermediate steps.

This sentence contains at least two sins: It's a double negative and needlessly complex. The meaning is more or less clear, but why state it in double negative form when doing so will make most readers stumble? Sentences like these are acts of disrespect to my audience.

Ironically, in the final version of my post, No One Reads Past a Crappy First Sentence, not only did I nuke that double negative, I ended up nuking the entire sentence. It was secondary to my point. I hadn't realized it until I'd stripped it down.

Too many writers reach for complexity. The best writing is always simple.