Clarity

Clarity is how you transfer an idea from your brain into another brain.

It is difficult because the way you find out if your writing is effective is by letting others read it. But nobody wants to read your stuff.

While reader feedback is the golden standard, I will show you tools to make your writing clear by your own effort.

First off, there is no such thing as clarity on the first draft. Clarity is strictly a editing process.

Tools of Clarity

Read Your Work Out Loud

If you won’t read your work, you don’t deserve to have others read it.

Omit Needless Words

Reading is exhausting. If every idea is buried, the reader will stop digging. Prose isn’t a maze to be navigated, it is an adventure to be enjoyed.

Now, in the land of Whilian, there was important news, the threat to this world, the dark lord, without help from anyone else, has created, by means of his power and influence, from all corners of world, a massive force of militaristic power, to influence the world for his evil purposes.

Becomes–

The dark lord formed an army.

Favor Active Voice

Many writers say only use active voice. This advice is wrong.

Active voice invigorates the prose. The hero runs, jumps, fights, sits, and talks. Reading slows down when everything is acted upon. The chair was lifted. The cat was chased. It is best to turn passive sentences into active. Josh lifted the chair. Something chased the cat.

Passive voice exists for a reason. It allows us to focus on a character even if he is being acted upon. As you read, your mental focus is on one subject at a time. It is best when the subject is active. At times the passive voice is necessary to shift attention to another subject.

Use Comparisons

Readers already have vast experience. The best way to explain a new concept, alien race, or environment is by using what readers already know. Metaphor is the gold standard of comparison. They are poetic. Use metaphors even if you suck at them. With practice (and reading) your metaphors will strengthen and become a cornerstone of your work.

Favor Brevity

A sentence describes a subject acting on an object. All manner of dependent clauses tax the reader’s attention.

When King George reigned the land, after becoming of age, taking the throne from the steward, he imposed a harsh tax on beards, as he thought breads filthy.

Becomes–

After his eighteenth birthday, George took the throne. The steward stepped down. George imposed a harsh tax on beards. He thought breads filthy.

If you use short sentences enough, your long ones will stand out. Use them for contrast.

In addition, use short words. Long words are pretentious. Unless precisely used, long words are unnecessary.

Use Few Adverbs and Adjectives.

One again, common writing advice is wrong. Adverbs serve a purpose. Adjectives are the adverbs of nouns. They are tolerable because they don’t add the insidious “ly”. Their utility is over stated.

Use adverbs and adjectives to draw special attention. Readers will notice the descriptive word since you avoid morphing every other noun and verb you write.

Use them to create dissonance. Every smile and laugh is assumed to be happily done. When a character snarls happily, that creates attention. The contrast demands notice.