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pic-clarity-greatClarity is one of the most important attributes of good writing.

 

 

This means ensuring that what you are writing is not open to interpretation.

It is no good assuming that those reading what you have written will interpret the information as you intended them to. So the fact that the meaning of the content you have written is clear to you is not good enough, because you are not the person or persons you are trying to influence.

The objective of anything you write will surely be to influence the reader or readers in some way, whether that may be to get them to see your point of view, to motivate them to buy something or to make certain decisions or to rate you as an authority on the topic or just to get them to read what you have written.

So put yourself in the shoes of the reader and consider what they want to or need to hear, as opposed to just focusing on what you want to tell them.

Then when you have finished what you are writing, try to put yourself in the mindset of the reader and read the content through their eyes.

This is just as important when writing emails as it is when writing articles, proposals, instruction manuals, business reports, web content or any other form of written content.

If you are writing an email or proposal, you will also need to ensure that you have met the expectations of the person you are sending it to.

The prerequisites of clarity include, getting to the point, making strong statements, and not using smart words just because you are little ashamed of your simple ones. Whatever you are writing, don’t be clever, be clear, and imagine you are actually talking to the reader or readers and have a conversation with them.

It is always possible to get into conversation mode, no matter how serious the topic. In fact, if you are writing about something quite technical or instructive it is just as important to be conversational. This will make it easier for those reading it to absorb the information and at the same time not send them to sleep.

Looking at the way some manuals are written it is no wonder so many people will pick up the phone and ask someone to help them rather than try and follow the complicated wording in the instructions.

Being stiff and formal is another trap that is easy to get caught in, which can also lead to lack of understanding or misinterpretation on the part of the reader. To be more spontaneous in your writing try asking yourself, “What am I trying to say?” Say it out loud, and then write it down.

Another thing worth remembering is that people tend to think in pictures. Hence the expression, “I see what you mean.” So examples are a powerful way to support or emphasise statements and add clarity.

It is also important to get the flow of the content right and not jump backwards and forwards between the points you are trying to make. Similarly, cover all the important points upfront, because it is no good assuming the reader is going to read it to the end.

This is especially important when writing emails. How many times have you found yourself writing multiple emails to sort out a misunderstanding, or not getting a response to a question, or being asked the same question again, because the recipient of your email has not read it right through?

Jennigay Coetzer is a freelance  writer, journalist, author and trainer. Email her at jennigay@icon.co.za for more information about her writing skills workshops and media training workshops or connect with her on LinkedIn. An ebook version of her book A Perfect Press Release – or Not?, a guide to writing press releases, can be downloaded free from her website: www.jennigay.co.zatogether with lots more writing tips.


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