Successful Writing : Writing Clearly

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Your first job as a writer is
to make yourself clear.

Writing clearly is what the professional Writers will do. When asked what they value most in writing, nearly all readers say, "I want it to be clear." Good writing has other qualities too, but clarity comes first, way ahead of whatever might be second. Your First responsibility as a writer is to make yourself clear. It's tempting to think that clear writing must come easily to professional writers, but that's hardly ever the case. Professional writers write clearly because they work at it. Like people who stay fit through discipline and exercise, effective writers produce clear, forceful writing because they work at their writing and have developed a set of strategies that make it readable and engaging.

In this chapter we give you an overview of five such strategies:

  • Illustrating General Statements with Specific Examples

  • Making Your Readers See Something

  • Putting People in Your Writing

  • Choosing Concrete Words

  • Adding Metaphors for Clarity

    For Practice :

    1. Working with two or three other students, discuss ways to revise the following sentences using more concrete and specific language:

    • Your accepting out recommendation would mean elimination of homeless elements on our city streets.

    • The result of the election is an indication that the legislator has an environmentally aware constituency.

    Working together, you have to write a clear version of each sentence and compare it with versions by other groups.

    2. Revise these sentences, adding people or a person as a the subject of each:

    • The burden of responsibility for Joseph’s behavior is on his parents.

    • A stringent self – evaluation is needed to remedy your problem.

    • The anxiety of choosing a profession is a major cause of stress.

    3. Working with two or three other students, discuss ways in which one could revise these sentences using more vigorous verbs:

    • There are several advantages that will be achieved by this ruling.

    • Vitamins are substances the body requires in small amounts.

    • There are many things to examine when looking for a used ear.

    4. Revise the following sentences to replace passive verbs with active verbs and get rid of any nominalization you think are weakening the sentences:

    • Uneducated women often feel serious apprehension when they are forced into the job marked for the first time.

    • Information should be made available to consumers before they ask for it.

    • What should be considered is the capability and suitability of the individual for each job.

    • It is recommended by administrators that maturity and high school performance be a key element in decision making for admissions.

    • The requirements were put into effect by a group of uninformed people before the problem had been fully studied.

    5. Photocopy a magazine article in which the author uses metaphor well and bring it to class. Analyze the writer’s reason for using allusion and metaphor. To what extent do you find the technique effective?

    For Writing :

    For each of the following assignments, write a detailed analysis of your audience. specify characteristics of your audience you need to keep mind as you write. The problems such an audience might present and what the audience would expect to get from reading your paper. Also analyze your purpose in writing, specifying what you hope to accomplish with the paper. If appropriate, include an accurate and descriptive title for your paper.

    1. Observe carefully a street, neighborhood, building or small area in your city and write an objective report on it that might be using for a project in an urbasociology class or a course on city government. Use concrete and specific vague and objectives. Think about what kind of information you reader would want to get from the report.

    Some possible topics for description :

    • A school building that needs to be modernized

    • A vacant lot that could be converted into a playground

    • A block close to campus that is being invaded X – rated bookstores and porno movie houses

    • The county court house that was built in the last century

    2. The generous retirement pay of people who have served twenty years or more in the armed services costs U.S taxpayers a substantial amount of money. For example, a colonel may retire at forty – two and receive more than $3,000 a month retirement pay while holding down author job. A four star admiral may retire at the age of sixty with a pension of more than $90,000 a year. These benefits also have the advantage of being tied to the cost of living so that they increase regularly. Defend or oppose these benefits and write an article expressing your views Think carefully about the consequences of your argument and support your points. Direct your paper to a specific audience, perhaps a congressional committee that is considering budget cuts or the readers of your local newspaper.

    3. Write a short article for young people from ten to fourteen year old explaining the basic concepts of some subject on which you are well informed and in which you are very interested. Assume that your readers are bright youngsters who read well and who enjoy learning some timing new. Try to explain your ideas or give your information in terms they will understand using concrete examples and analogies. Keep your focus narrow enough that you can treat the subject in no more than 1,000 words.

    Here are some suggestions for topics:

    • A new discovery in geology, astronomy, archeology or another science

    • How a young person trains to become a dancer, lawyer, journalist physician or college professor

    • How the weather is forecast

    • How airplanes fly, ducks swim, whales breathe

    • How to budget and spend a clothes allowance

    Remember that your audience doesn’t have to read your article and will do so only if you hold its interest. It would be a good idea to look at some children’s magazines like the Junior National Geographic or at the column for young people in a magazine such as SIERRA to get a feel for what kind of writing appeals to youngsters. And remember: Don’t preach.

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