Earlier this week, I interviewed an expert for a magazine article. As I transcribed my notes, I was struck by how incoherent we are when we talk. My expert, a smart, college educated teacher, would begin to answer a question then take one or more tangents before coming back to the main thought.
The interview landscape was littered with fillers (like, actually, just, well, etc.) and incomplete sentences. In her defense, my contribution to the verbal thicket was only marginally smaller because I was supposed to be listening instead of rambling around with her.
I edited this junk out of the finished transcript and it won’t appear in the published quotes. The writers of all those articles you read in magazines and newspapers do this regularly so their sources sound like credible experts – you can thank us later for that.
Why do we shamble like zombies when speaking? How in heavens name do we understand one another? Because we get the gist of what someone has said and believe they have said it clearly and coherently.
But, when you’re writing, you don’t have the luxury of this extension of understanding. Readers won’t hack through the verbiage –they’ll give up. So, write like a sharper, clearer version of yourself.
Today’s Clarity Tip:
State your point in the shortest sentences possible. Stay away from compound sentences and avoid parenthetical asides. If you have more than three commas in a sentence, it’s too long. Break it up into individual thoughts.
How’s the writing going for you? Let me know what’s working and what’s not – I’d love to hear from you.
If you need help, let me know – I’m available now for edits and content management that wards off zombies.
Image: Creative Commons