Write It Sideways

5 Steps to Writing Simply

The fastest way to get somewhere is by taking the most direct route.

Often, we forget this simple truth in our writing. Instead, we spend far too much time trying to describe, thinking of bigger words, and attempting to sound erudite.

The best way to get a point across is to take the simplest path. This is especially true for non-fiction articles and blog posts, but it can also apply to fiction.

Here are five easy steps to help you write more simply in no time at all:

  1. Get Organized. Before you start writing, stop and think about exactly what you want to communicate to your reader. What is the purpose of your article/post/story? How will you lay out the main points or events? What tone are you trying to set? By asking yourself these questions and outlining your piece, you can save time in the actual writing. With a clearer picture of where you want to go, you’ll find yourself getting there faster and easier than ever before.
  2. Use Adverbs and Adjectives Sparingly. Instead of giving yourself free reign to write whatever comes into your head (with the intention of editing later), try to be more conscious of your word choices during the writing process. Overuse of adverbs and adjectives can detract from the natural beauty of a piece. Practice writing with fewer flourishes, and soon you’ll find yourself writing more simply, automatically. Though you’ll still need to edit your work after the fact, you won’t have to spend so much time trimming.
  3. Get More Bang for Your Buck. Today’s readers are terribly impatient. You don’t need more words; what you need are better words. For example, I could have named this blog post “Five Quick and Easy Steps Toward Learning to Write In a Clearer and More Concise Manner.” Instead I chose the easiest, most direct path. “5 Steps to Writing Simply” is descriptive, yet minimal. No matter what you’re writing, look for the best words to fit the job. Your reader will thank you for not exhausting them.
  4. Avoid Long, Confusing Sentences. It sometimes feels impossible to fit one’s brilliant ideas into short, meaningful sentences. However, when faced with a sentence that is clearly juggling too many ideas, try breaking it up into shorter ones. Shorter sentences often contain more punch because they get your point across quicker. Try mixing short sentences with an occasional (well-constructed) longer sentence to help vary your writing’s rhythm.
  5. Consider Formatting. Fiction writers use white space—that is, the space left between paragraphs that give the reader room to breathe and time to think. Likewise, when writing articles and blog posts, you can use specific formatting techniques to help your reader. White space, headers, bullet points, numbered lists, bolded key phrases, and manageable chunks of text help the eye move more freely and more quickly down the page. The result is a simpler, more effective appearance.

The next time you sit down to write, remember these five steps to achieving simplicity. You’ll soon notice a difference in the quality of your writing.

So will your readers.