Many wannabe writers fail to grasp the importance of correct diction, learning how to use words properly, in achieving the goal of clear writing. But this is a very important technique to embrace if you really want to become a good writer. Although I have recently written on this subject, it is important enough to bear repeating.
The choice of clear and effective words is defined as diction. It covers many facets, including conciseness, which in turn encompasses finding and using the exact word. Diction is a subject treated at length in my eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindlebooks.
Being concise in the use of words is no great secret. Even as far back as 1733 when Ben Franklin began publishing his Poor Richard’s Almanac, it was evident that word economy played a big part in its success. Some of Poor Richard’s sayings such as “Hunger never saw bad bread,” and “Light purse, heavy heart,” reflected Franklin’s efforts to not just economize on words but to set forth a kernel of truth for everyday guidance. I’m sure the success of the Almanac was not just happenstance but came about largely due to Franklin’s efforts to polish everything he wrote, a subject also covered in my eBook.
Learning correct diction is closely aligned with the task of building an effective vocabulary. The two go hand in glove. Words are the basic building blocks in any writing and should fit together like bricks in a wall. Properly used words should allow your sentences to flow smoothly like an unobstructed stream of water. Acquiring correct diction is basically a two-step process. You must first acquire a workable vocabulary, then learn how to write with these words. Nothing will make your writing come alive faster than use of the right words in the right places. Precise word usage will elevate you in the eyes of the reader and help convince the reader that you’re an accomplished writer.
Faulty diction takes many forms. One of the biggest pitfalls is lack of conciseness. Leading from your longest and strongest suit is a traditional opening lead when playing bridge. The same thought applies to writing. Capturing the reader’s interest from the outset is most important. Therefore, begin writing with a strong opening paragraph, appropriately captioned. This approach will capture the reader’s attention and less likely result in reader distraction. After getting the reader’s attention, the next challenge is to hold it.
The best way to do this is to avoid the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea. Tautology, the needless repetition of an idea in different words, is a fancy word for it, but it’s nothing more than sloppy writing. Dense, wordy paragraphs and long, rambling, disorganized writing is certain to cause reader discontent and exasperation. Such writing amounts to pomposity, which will turn your reader off. Use familiar words. Write in a conversational and welcoming tone, not stilted or artificial.
Be attentive to every word you write. Much of the force of your presentation will spring from its conciseness. Use words judiciously, economically and at a level the reader can understand. Don’t make the reader grope for a meaning – it may be an unintended meaning. Less is usually more. Try to accomplish this result by “squeezing” your writing until all needless words have been eliminated. Question the need for everything that appears in your writing. Due diligence on the issue of wordiness will put you squarely on the road to writing concisely.
Patriotism aside, there is no finer example of the power of concise, effective writing than the following timeless words from the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
These memorable words, expressing the maximum in political sentiment in the minimum amount of space, the embodiment of powerful but utter simplicity yet profound in their implication, earned Jefferson a well deserved lasting place in American history. He truly was a gifted writer.
Start writing today to erase all of those self doubts you may have about writing. If you spend 30 minutes every day writing something, you will soon see imporovement in your writing skills.
Copyright © 2012. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.