Tag Archives: reading

Now Is The Time To Learn To Write Clearly; The Economy Needs It

Last week’s blog addressed the perceived epidemic in grammar deficiencies that is plaguing American business today.  It pointed out that the foundation of the American economy is capitalism, i.e., free enterprise and entrepreneurship.  The blog further emphasized that individual initiative has been the driving force behind the economic growth in America.

The blog was intended as a call to action.  You can do your part to move the economy along by becoming a better writer.  The written word is more important now than ever before. In today’s world of global communications, you cannot hope to secure a place unless you can write clearly.  Prepare yourself to meet opportunity.  Begin by learning to write clearly.  It will pay huge dividends for you.

I practiced law in California for over 40 years before retiring.  I saw the writing failures of innumerable attorneys who, despite all their education, still made mistakes in writing.  I attended several writing lectures presented by Bryan Garner, an attorney and a very well respected name in the legal writing community.  His lectures are given nationally.  Each lecture was attended by both lawyers and judges, and each was a sell-out!  In a profession which devotes as much time to the written word as the legal profession does, it was surprising for me to see so many lawyers and judges that still strive to improve their writing skills.

In case the message was lost, let me repeat it now:  it’s never too late to learn!  If you have any doubts about your ability to write clearly, now is the time to get started to erase those doubts.

Begin by developing confidence in your writing.  Clear writing depends to a large extent on the power of belief, belief that comes from having confidence in your writing.  When you have that confidence, it will show – the reader can see it. To develop that confidence you must master what I would call the “inner game” of writing, the mental game.  Overcome the mental blocks to clear writing and you will have travelled a measureable distance down the road to becoming an accomplished writer.

The best way to gain confidence in your writing is to work at it.  Dedicate yourself to it.  Dedicated writing – writing with a purpose – not just writing by rote, will work wonders for your writing confidence.  A good golfer may spend hundreds, even thousands of hours working on his swing, his short game, his putting, all of which are integral parts of the game.  Practice your writing continuously.  Refine it as you go.  Study the style and technique of other writers.  The more you read and write, the more your writing will improve, and the more your confidence will grow.

As an integral part of the confidence-building process, you must also learn how to use words effectively.  This rule applies to speaking as well as writing.  It is the orderly and logical presentation of information that listeners can easily understand that makes a speaker interesting.  A good speaker always uses words effectively.  If you can train yourself to speak clearly, you can also learn to write clearly.  The discipline involved in clear thinking and the organization of materials for the presentation of a speech or talk will also apply to any writing project – mastering this discipline will make your writing stand out.  It will mark you as an accomplished writer.  The March Hare’s admonition to Alice, “…you should say what you mean,” applies perforce to writing.

Even more importantly, clear thinking not only fosters clear writing, it fosters creativity, and creativity in turn fosters job creation.  By organizing your mind so you think logically and in an orderly fashion you will also learn to think freely, to look “outside the box” for solutions to problems.  This kind of initiative, this kind of ability, is what the economy sorely needs.

Check out my new website at www.agregardie.com.   It features my new ebook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” now available at Amazon.com/Kindle books, and my article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved the Union,” also available on Kindle.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.


Filed under clear writing, Writing Improvement

Understanding Your Reading Audience Is Essential For Clear Writing.

The most important goal in clear writing is to write understandably.  This means that you must write to address your reader’s interests.

The first step in meeting this goal is to know who you are writing for and why you are writing for that audience.  Whether y0ur purpose is selling a product to the general public, writing a scientific paper, preparing a thesis for a degree, or explaining how a stockholder should exercise his/her right to vote at the annual stockholders meeting, it is crtitical to focus on the reader’s interests and write to address those interests.  Take the reader’s knowledge and level of understanding into account by considering the makeup of your reading audience.  Use language your reader will know and understand.

This approach is emphasized by the U.S. Government in its Report of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the United States Senate  (Report) to accompany the Plain Writing Act of 2009  (Act).  The Act is an effort to enhance citizen access to government information by mandating that government documents issued to the public be written in “plain” english.  (What the government really means is “clear” English.)  Substantial credit for many of the suggestions contained in this and other blogs which have appeared  in the past and will appear on this blog in the future is owed to the Report.  Many of those ideas parallel my own thinking and are simply too useful to be limited  to the relatively few individuals who may be involved in government oriented work.  I have therefore tried to rewrite, expand, and clarify, many of those suggestions for use in this blog site.

To continue, the Report defines plain writing with respect to the intended audience.  It explains that there are no hard rules in plain language except to be clear to your intended reader.  Plain writing means organizing and presenting all information in a way that improves readability.  Specialized words such as legal or scientific terms should be avoided if not necessary to present the information conveyed.

In other words, it matters if you are writing for a general audience or for a specific reader.  A general audience will have varying degrees of reading sophistication.  To write for a reader who is sophisticated on a specific subject requires expert knowledge on the writer’s part to make the writing understandable.  But obviously, you would not use the same level of sophistication for a reader who will not comprehend it.  In the same vein, a less sophisticated reader will have a greater need for understandable writing and may require more education on basic terms or concepts.  There is a clear difference in writing for a college professor, steeped in the niceties of academia, and writing for an experienced business owner, accustomed to the hard knocks of the business world.  The apporoach you take for one would probably not work for the other.

Important terms or concepts should be written in bold or italics.

Next:  creating a profile of your reading audience.

Copyright 2012. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Filed under clear writing