This tip is mainly for non-fiction writers—even though fiction writers should also have an eye on this particular point: brevity and clarity. If you write something—anything—that you would like others to read, always have the reader in mind and give some thought to how you say it. Here is why:
I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead. (Mark Twain)
Indeed, this quote sounds a bit weird at first. How can it take longer to write a short letter than to write a long one? But this is so painfully true.
A skill that many people lack is to explain an idea in few, clear words that people can actually understand. This is particularly true for scholars, as well as politicians and lawyers, although with the latter two I often think it’s intentional.
It requires less thought to just go on and on and on but actually say very little. On the other hand, it requires a lot of thought to extract the most important points and express them shortly and to the point. Continue reading