Clarity of Writing: The Crayon Effect

Dear Scholar, 

Dear Writer:

Our topic today focuses on the idea of simplicity of understanding and clarity of writing. Many emerging writers (students/graduates) think that one has to swallow a dictionary and use long and complex words to sound like a scholar.  Nope. Fallacy. Not true.

Communication is about the ability to (a) connect with your audience and (b) to avoid leaving questions in the minds of your audience. 

When we use lengthy words, long words, complicated words, uncommon terms, jargon, and complexity, we often fail to connect with our audience and therefore, as writers, we fail to complete the communication handshake between message sender and receiver.  Just because we send a message, doesn’t mean that our intended recipient received the message AND understood the message.

In the academic world, questions mean kickbacks and another round of reviews and revisions; wasting time and money.  Instead, strong attention to details is needed.  Do you sound like you are talking with marbles in your mouth as if you swallowed the Oxford dictionary whole?  Think simple.  Think brief.  Think clarity.

I am not suggesting that you talk down to your reader, but I am suggesting that you talk in plain English to your reader.  Many of the most amazing dissertations include sophisticated complexity but in plain language that anyone can easily digest and understand. THIS IS THE GOAL.  Does your reader get what you are trying to tell them?  If not—back to the drawing board.

Never miss an opportunity to connect with your reader. Suggestions include short and concise titles.  Short sentences. Clear paraphrasing to ensure that your reader knows your words from those of your source you are paraphrasing.  Brevity is key. More is not always better, more is simply more.

Many have heard of the KISS Method:  Keep it Simple Sweetheart or Keep it Simple Stupid.  Clarity of language does not mean lack of sophistication or complexity. The secret tool of writing is to make the complex easy and the sophisticated easy to comprehend.

The solution? if you have problems writing and lack clarity.  Go find your Crayons.  Yep—go back to Kindergarten if you must and find the 3 inch crayons.  Why?  You can’t write big words and you can think in complex language with a crayon in your hand (or two!).  The smell alone will transplant you back to the age of being 5 yet again.  Make writing fun.  Pick your favorite color and go to town. Simply by having the visceral experience of holding the crayon in your hand will transport you back to a simpler time AND simpler thinking.

The solution for fuzzy and convoluted thought is simply to pick up a crayon.  Try this exercise and share with us your experience.  If you’re feeling rich, go by the pack of Crayola 64–you know, the one with the sharpener.  (You know you want to!!!!) Experiment with your favorite colors like lavender and silver and gold.  Whatever color you choose, your writing will become easier and simpler simply by remembering the easy of what it was like to communication as child, using clear and simple language.

Enjoy the trip down memory lane.

My best to your success!

Dr. Cheryl Lentz
The Academic Entrepreneur—with a crayon at the ready!

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September 6th, 2017 by admin