Clutter is the writer’s enemy. Clutter is using too many words, too many long or fancy words, or too many long phrases or sentences. The goal for the writer’s message to be short, sweet and to the point.
Some writers, especially new ones, tend to write long, dreary sentences. That may be because the writer lacks sufficient vocabulary to choose more effective words or wording. Or maybe the writer is trying to reach a minimum word count. In any case, the clutter results in losing the reader’s attention and interest, or just plain confusing the reader.
After completing an early draft of an article or book, the writer’s job is to fight the clutter. Look for words or phrases that don’t do any real work. For example: Don’t say “It should be pointed out… Just point it out. Don’t say “it’s interesting to note”, just state it.) Don’t pump up what can be said straight out.
Look for anything and everything you can get rid of, without sacrificing your message. Edit every sentence you wrote. Is every word working for your message? Can any thought be expressed more efficiently? Does anything sound affected, pretentious, or faddish? Next, do the same for paragraphs, sections, or even chapters.
The secret of effective writing is to strip every sentence down to its most basic and clearest elements. That means eliminating every sentence that could be shortened or broken into two or even three succinct sentences, eliminating many connectives.
Start by thinking clearly. What message do you want your readers to receive? How can you best convey that message? What minimum supporting information or background does the reader need? Will your message be clear to someone reading about the subject for the first time? It it’s not, some clutter is clogging up the works. If you make readers work too hard to get that message, you may lose them. Go back and start re-writing.
Writing is hard work. A clear sentence does not happen by luck; very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the second or third time. It’s often said that writing is re-writing, especially when you want your readers to enjoy what they’re reading.
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