Clear Thinking = Clear Writing

Clear thinking leads to clear writing.

Fuzzy writing often reflects fuzzy thinking.

One of the best ways to improve your thinking is to articulate your thoughts in writing.

When you write out your thoughts, you have something to analyze, revise, and improve.

Editing = Clarifying Your Thinking

The more your write and edit, the clearer your thinking becomes.

Here are... (wait for it)... THREE tips for clarifying your writing/thinking:

1) Structure your Thoughts

When possible, group similar ideas together into distinct categories of information.

One of the easiest ways to confuse an audience is to not organize your thoughts into categories.

The second easiest way to confuse an audience is to violate your own categorization structure.

For example, there are three steps to riding a bicycle:

a) starting
b) coasting
c) stopping

This is a clear structure.

Explaining the concept of pedals clearly belongs in the first category on “starting.”

Explaining the role of brakes clearly belongs in the last category on "stopping."

If you discuss brakes during starting, and pedals during stopping (assuming you’re using handbrakes), the content doesn’t fit the structure.

Readers find this confusing.

In addition, let's say your written work includes the following sentence:

“Don’t forget to oil your bike chain regularly to ensure proper functioning.”

This comment doesn’t fit your structure. It sticks out.

This leads me to my second tip:

2) Stay Focused by Eliminating Extraneous Ideas.

Quite often, less is more.

It is better to a convey an idea simply and cleanly than to cram more information in that doesn’t fit the focus of your written document.

3) Be Concise by Editing Ruthlessly.

As you review your work, ask yourself the following question (over and over again):

Can I eliminate this word, phrase, or paragraph without changing the meaning?

If so, delete it.

Clear writing comes from getting your key ideas across while using not one word more or less than necessary.

Clear thinking comes from focusing on the single most important crux of your thought -- rather than swimming in a sea of jumbled ideas.

The better you get at editing your writing, the better you will automatically get at thinking more concisely.

Structure. Focus. Conciseness.

Now pull up the last email you wrote, and rewrite it using these three tips.

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1 comment… add one
  • Raj Subramanyam May 24, 2017, 2:21 pm

    So true.
    I would add one more – reading (a lot of) clearly written pieces also help. My writing (and thinking) has improved simply by reading Victor’s blogs, SO letter and books, over a period of time.
    I also find the concise writings in the Economist very helpful.
    Thanks Victor.

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