Simple is Better
“Peter!” his wife called out from the kitchen. “Can you return this dish-set to the china store for me? Today is the last day it can be returned for a credit.”
Peter grumbled, not interested in the slightest to leave while his hockey game was on TV. “Does it have to be done now?”
“Yes,” his wife insisted. “The store is only open for another hour.”
“All right,” he said, grudgingly rising up from his comfortable chair. “Where is this place?”
She strode over to the doorway to face him. “You go to the end of the road, make a right. Then drive about five kilometers until you see the new town houses on the right side, make a left there. Then drive until you see the big bank on the left and a small pizzeria on the right. There, you make another left and then you take an immediate right. Go another block until you come to a white church, turn left and then just before you hit the four-way stop sign, it’s the red brick building on the left that says Traditional China.”
Peter furrowed his brow with utter confusion. “Never mind, I’ll put it into the navigation system.”
If you make things complicated, you run the risk of being misunderstood.
A writer’s blog that I follow talked about writing practices that worked for highly successful authors (Writing Secrets of Prolific Authors By David Masters – http://writetodone.com/2012/01/23/writing-secrets-of-prolific-authors/), and I realized how valid and true these suggested practices are.
David states in his blog that one practice of Isaac Asimov was to write clear and simple. How often have I heard that writing should be invisible and should flow and be uncomplicated?
Isaac Asimov (500 books)quoted, “I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics—well, they can do whatever they wish.” –
Isaac made a good point; simple and clear writing probably won’t get you a Pulitzer prize but what it does do is make reading easy and enjoyable for your readers. And that is who we are writing for, our readers. Especially today, when lifestyles move faster than the wind, most people want things quick and easy. I think all of us writers like to show off now and then, but in writing, it is something no writer can afford to do. Writing should be invisible. Invisible means that readers don’t notice the words they are reading but grasp only the idea the words relay.
Invisible writing is simple writing.
As I comb through my writing, I look for areas that have too much complex wordage, areas where I can say things in a simpler way that makes it effortless for the reader to comprehend.
As usual, editing my own work is a difficult task. I don’t always see my mistakes. To try to catch areas of my writing that are overdone, I go through the following steps:
- Remove ‘big’ words and replace them with simple ones – Try to remove unusual or uncommon words. If an unusual or uncommon word is used than limit one of those per sentence.
- Write for your audience – Write sentences so that whoever is reading it, they will understand it. I gear my writing to approximately a grade nine reading level to ensure almost every one’s understanding.
- Clarify unfamiliar words – In fiction writing, especially in fantasy, where some words are ‘made up’, the reader needs to know what those words mean – no dictionary will tell them. Through dialogue or added information, explain the meaning to the reader. Specialized terminology or abstruse words, I think are often better replaced.
By taking away complex wordage, it makes the writing more understandable and enhances the story.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo DaVinci