Let’s make one thing clear.
Merriam-Webster: clarity — the state or quality of being clear.
Often, I see writing that is can be nothing other than a mind dump, really nothing more than what is obviously a first draft, and I know that the writer has presented something that has not gone through the clarity stage.
Reporters, essayists, novelists, poets: it’s the some phenomenon the world over. And I’m as guilty of it as anyone. “Read this,” I implore. “Tell me what you think.”
My prey are too kind to say it is nothing more than a hodgepodge of words in search of an escape from the mess they are in. On the rare occasions I’ve offered them up to an editor, the reply “are you kidding me?” was immediately followed by “I need something now. This is a newspaper,” and off I’d go, untangling the mess with deadline looming.
Okay, most of you don’t have to work under deadline pressure. But many of you will dawdle over an unmitigated mess far longer than necessary. And I believe it is because as a writer, you have not opened the door marked clarity.
One time I visited a beloved uncle of mine undergoing chemotherapy. I asked him, “so, how does this chemotherapy work, exactly?” And after brief explanation, as clear and concise as could be, I understood more about cancer and the way it is treated by chemotherapy than any reading I had attempted to undertake. Recalling he spent 50 years as a reporter and bureau chief, I should not have been surprised. He had the art of being clear down pat.
In previous posts I have said that following the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why) — and the H (how) — is the basic element of all writing. What follows is clarity. Need an example? Read any blog in the blogosphere. I predict that the ones you will like, the ones with useful information, the ones that will make you want to come back for more, are the ones that are clear (and often, concise).
See ya next week.