Clear Writing Inspires Clear Thinking

Writing about complex ideas sometimes brings out the big vocabulary words and abstract expressions. This seems like the right approach — complex ideas should be explained and expounded upon with complex words, right?

Wrong. If reader understanding and retention are our goals, then we want to make our document clear and easy to read, even if our readers are experts. Everyone — even the extremely well-educated reader with a vocabulary that would put the SAT to shame — finds simple writing with concrete examples easier to read and to retain. People are busy and do not want to take too much time to understand a knotty, complex paragraph. And with so much content coming at us every day, it’s easy for any reader to put a paper or report aside, never to return.

Below are four examples of abstract writing with simple, clear alternatives.

Abstract Concrete
  • Significant fiscal impact is a probable outcome.
  • It will likely cost an extra $4 million.
  • A comprehensive set of recommendations was approved to improve inclusiveness.
  • The Advisory Board voted to move its meetings to 7 p.m. so that more members could attend.
  • The team consolidated the response from the various stakeholders that allowed management to be informed of the concerns as well as those discussions that took place online.
  • The team gave management a written summary of the community’s concerns.
  • The web site has been redesigned and restructured to support the implementation of the Strategic Plan relating to accessibility of new employment opportunities.
  • Staff redesigned the web site so that new job postings are on the home page, with the most current ones on top.
 

Putting things into simple, concrete terms helps uncover ideas and issues we or our reader might have missed. Instead of allowing us to hide behind vague sentences, clear writing brings out our clearest thinking.

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