Writing: Pure and Simple

Here’s some invaluable advice on writing (pure and simple) that I was given by an older writer…

As a young twenty something I was pretty confident in my writing abilities. My articles and longer essays had made it into print, and I was being asked to contribute to several publishing projects.

I’ve always appreciated the wisdom of older people. If someone had built a career as an editor and writer I regarded their advice as if it was written in gold leaf.

The best feedback on writing I ever received

After weeks of working on an article I decided to send it to my old boss. I was several stages into the polishing and refining of the piece. I wasn’t prepared for the feedback that I received:

“No one will read it.”

That stung.

“It’s too complicated.”

“The paragraphs are too long.”

I was swaying about on the ropes by this stage.

“You might enjoy it, but your average reader will just switch off.”

And with a muffled thud my writer’s self-esteem crashed into the canvas.

But he was right. What mattered was the audience. What they needed was writing that was pure and simple (admission: they were undergraduates).

It is easy to write something that people will give up on reading, especially if you are writing for the Web.

A four point lesson in writing

Here are some rules that my mentor gave me:

1. Keep it short

The longer the post, the fewer the readers you will have. Learn to be concise. Get rid of words that you don’t need.

2. Use short paragraphs

Large paragraphs look like too much effort, and readers will give up. Use no more than three or four sentences per paragraph.

3. Keep sentences short

Short sentences make the copy read fast.

4. Use simple words

The goal is to communicate, not to impress.

P.S. If you would like to know how to do all of this you can start by reading C. S. Lewis.

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