Everything I write has the same main goal:
To be understood.
Because if a reader doesn’t understand my message, there’s no chance they’ll get value from it or act on it.
Here are five steps I take to ensure my writing is as clear as it can be…
1. It has to be clear to me first.
You can’t write clearly until you’re clear in your own mind about what you want to say, why, and who you want to hear it.
This seems obvious, but is often overlooked.
That’s why so much writing wanders, fails to attract the intended audience, or is simply misunderstood.
I don’t write anything until I get clear on why I’m writing it.
For example, I’m writing this article because I’m often asked how I write clearly and it’s intended to help others become more effective communicators and accomplish their goals.
2. I use simple language.
I don’t try to impress readers with my vocabulary.
If you want everyone to understand you, you must use words everyone understands.
This article is written on a level 7th graders can understand (based on a readability test score).
I’m proud of that.
3. I tell small stories.
A single person’s story often conveys more than a mountain of statistics or research ever could.
One of the best ways to get an idea to resonate is to tell the stories of individuals and focus on the micro as opposed to the macro.
For example, it’s more powerful to see the first creations of famous creators than for me to rant about the importance of not expecting your initial creations to be perfect.
And my article about how to get 10 followers is likely more valuable than an article about how to get 10,000 would be.
This principle is why so many successful business books are rooted in a collection of individual stories.
Small stories make larger messages easier to understand.
4. I rehearse.
Everything I publish has been rehearsed and refined multiple times before I ever type that first sentence.
Most of my blog posts are born from questions I’ve answered, conversations I’ve had, or topics I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and acting on myself.
I’ve communicated these ideas multiple times before ever writing them and that helps me explain them clearly.
They’ve been workshopped.
And even after I write a blog post, I show it to others before publishing it and/or share excerpts of it on Twitter.
These interactions — and the feedback they generate — help me gauge the clarity of my idea.
I can sense if others understand it, notice what questions they ask, figure out where I lost them, and address what confused them.
5. I eliminate as much as I can.
As I explained in This Is How I Edit My Writing, one of my favorite editing tactics is to force myself to remove 10% (or more) of the words in everything I write before I publish it.
This forced reduction forces clarity and strengthens my writing.
Because ultimately, strong writing is clear writing.
Discover the secrets of successful writers.