November 10th, 2015
Einstein once said “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” He was so right.
No matter what you’re writing, CLARITY should be your main goal – not cuteness, or cleverness, or big fancy words that make you sound smart or important.
So – how do you achieve clarity? I’m glad you asked.
- Make sure you understand what you’re talking about. Like, really understand it. As Einstein so wisely pointed out, how simply we’re able to explain something boils down to how well we understand it ourselves. A good check-in: ask yourself if you could explain it to an 6-year-old. If the answer is no, you’ve still got work to do. (This tip also courtesy of Einstein.)
- By writing with purpose – this means knowing what you want to say – and why.
- And finally, by writing as simply as you can (more on that in a sec).
As for some writing tricks to help you along in the clarity department, I’ve got you covered there too:
- Write as though your audience has little to know knowledge of your topic – because that very well may be the case. Start from the beginning, set the context, and get into it from there. This is another time the 8 year-old trick is helpful. Read what you wrote – would it make sense to a third grader? If not, back to the drawing board.
- Choose short and simple words over long and complex. The one exception to this rule is when you’re trying to describe something vividly (ie: the sunset was breathtaking vs. the sunset was nice). But generally speaking, ‘fast’ is better than ‘expeditious’, ‘wrong’ is better than ‘erroneous’, and ‘try’ is better than ‘endeavor’.
- Avoid extra words like these ones.
- Keep sentences short. Opt for a greater number of short sentences over fewer longer ones. You’re less likely to get down a confusing rabbit hole that way.
What are your biggest roadblocks when it comes to clarity? Let me know in the comments – I’d be happy to address them more specifically in a future blog post.