When it comes to writing advice, “clean” and “concise” are ubiquitous. These two words together describe “simplicity.” If a work is concise, it avoids superfluous details and meandering ideas; good writers know how to get straight to the point, and they do. If written content is clean, it reads with an organized flow without glaring errors; each sentence and paragraph transitions neatly into the next. Simplicity achieves all of that, plus a little more.
“To write is human, to edit is divine.”—Stephen King
Don’t be deceived—simplicity is not amateur. On the contrary, a simple work allows everyone and anyone to read and understand it.
“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.”—Enrique Jardiel Poncela
When tackling an article, proposal, or other lengthier work, keep these four tips in mind:
- It is best to have only 1–2 main ideas. The supporting details can be many, but the intention and message should be restricted to two concepts at most. An article on simplicity should not tackle the subject in writing, life, conversation, and office decor—a singular, well-supported idea comes across more potently than many ideas jumbled together.
- Concision does not mean only short, simple sentences (a simple sentence contains a subject and predicate; i.e., “Sally ran for president.”). Of course, you are concise when you cut out superfluity, but variations in sentence structure and length make everything easier and more enjoyable to read.
- Cut down on repetition. If you’ve stated an idea once, do not rewrite the same sentence but differently over and over again. An example would be: “Writing the same idea again and again when you’ve already written it once is a bad idea.” We’ve already told you this. Saying it again but differently does nothing but baffle and annoy the reader. Say it right the first time.
- Make sure your ideas flow logically. If you are writing about bees one second and then honed granite the next, there better be a connection, and you better make it obvious. Do not assume your reader has all the facts and context you do. Hold their hand and guide them through your ideas.
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time."—Blaise Pascal
To an extent, these same ideas also apply to much shorter works like AEC social media promotions. Everything will be more bite-sized on social media, however. Twitter should have your most brief and distilled messages. The others should never tackle more than a single focus, and they should aim to leave an impact through concise, meaningful language. Shave off excess words, and do not be afraid to draft. Give your writing a few tries to find your best result—your clarity will thank you.