Hi folks! Today we have a guest post from Grammarly.com’s Nikolas Baron, who’s written an excellent piece that offers great advice on how to keep your writing simple and easy to digest. I learned a lot from this piece and highly recommend it. Thanks for sharing it, Nick. Now without further ado…
In this post, I’m going to try to convince you that not only is simple writing more pleasant for readers, it is also a perfect method to KISS bad writing goodbye. Our mantra for today – K.I.S.S. Keep It Super Simple.
With this goal in mind, my entire entry will be written whilst I refrain from using any words more than two sound units. I borrowed this superb idea from Ruth Randell, a writer who wrote a novel that targets British adults whom she has observed to struggle with getting past the headlines in the press. I must admit that this exercise practice, with the added constraint, was initially a challenge at the beginning start, but trust me, with some effort, your brain will rewire itself without much of a struggle.
The thing about writing is that the more complex it is, the more readers you’ll be leaving out. And frankly, unless you’re writing a PhD in neural science on lab monkeys, I’m guessing you’ll want as big of a target audience as you can get. No one wants to be baffled by hard words or abstruse terms. So my first advice is to keep the jargon at the door.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that you should unlearn what English teachers taught you since grade school. I don’t want to be the one children quote when they want to drop out. What I’m saying is quite the contrary opposite REVERSE (that’s the word). Big words do have their rightful place as well, but that isn’t what makes for the kind of poignant writing we’re striving towards. What is helpful about giving this practice a shot is that it forces you to exhaust every single word that you can think of in an attempt to convey your thoughts in a clear and concise fashion.
Next, don’t pen down the first thing you think of. That is a feature linked to writers who can’t quite be bothered to invest time in cutting down their ideas. Your final product shouldn’t look like an exact copy of your draft. The process of any skilled writer will bring you through a journey, from a series of cluttered musings due to the urge to say many things, to a shorter, more modest display of words. This very aptly discerns between a novice and a writer who has honed his skill.
If you’re now starting to fathom how simple is really not that easy, I’ll let you in on the golden rule. Keep it to one idea per sentence. Not only will this be the ticket to solving your grammar issues, shorter lines also make for writing that brings more of an impact to your readers. Research shows that a normal person can focus without strained efforts for up to eight seconds, one second less than a goldfish. Now, I’m not sure what you inferred from that, but as the species that reside on top of the food chain, let’s pray that the goldfish don’t find out their knack for longer brain function than us. Who knows what a world governed by fishes would be like.
Lastly, keeping it super simple usually requires a heavy changing of words and phrases, where the delete key will become your best friend – don’t hate it. Always look out for words that you can cut out. Usually, a ‘finished’ text can be reduced by at least ten percent. At the same time, don’t forget to check for slip-ups with grammar. Be a grammar Nazi and grammar check every line, leaving no stone unturned. To lighten my load, I like to employ the help of Grammarly (the only three-sound unit word I’d use) to double-check certain rigid rules of the language.
And it’s done! We survived this post using only of two-sound words! It wasn’t that hard, was it?