How to Fix Your Writing


“The Economist Style Guide: 9th Edition” (Profile Books)

While I like my complex, structured style, it might be time to explore other ways to communicate using the written word. I do this for two reasons. One, my complex, structured style sometimes becomes a labored, leaden style. Two, complex subjects deserve to be explored simply. When you wrap complex concepts in baroque language you risk alienating your audience. When the subjects are important this is a disservice both to the concepts themselves, but also the people who could otherwise benefit from a clear exploration of the topic.

So I’ve been perusing the Economist Style Guide. It’s helping — some. Here’s how the above is phrased on the back of the book:

Clear thinking is the key to clear writing. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.

Readers are primarily interested in what you say. The way you say it may encourage them either to read on or to give up.

That’s good. Clear. Short. Pithy, almost. Someday I want to write just like that — nice and clear. But my head thinks in m-dashes & ampersands; semi-colons when ideas need to be piled up for effect; long lists of similar phrases to chart shifts in texture and tone.

So maybe there will be ancillary benefits. Perhaps learning clear-writing will lead to clear-thinking.

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