Joel Willitts has been blogging his way through Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (10th Edition) by Joseph M. Williams and Gregory G. Colomb. And, along the way, he’s offered some really great thoughts for improving your writing.
Here’s a quick summary of the four posts he’s done so far:
- 4 reasons for unclear writing
- What to do with grammatical “rules”
- 2 simple steps to greater clarity
- Making “characters” the focus of your writing
Here’s one thought that stood out to me from his first post because I think it happens to students all the time:
Some writers especially those new to a subject freeze up as they are trying to think and write. They are intimated by the material and consequently the prose worsens as we seek to master a new idea.
I’m not sure that there’s a fix for this. It may be necessary just to recognize that the first time you write on a subject will probably not be your best effort. It’s difficult to write clearly and well when you are still struggling to master the ideas that you’re trying to communicate. But, that’s just part of the process.
The best thing that you can probably do here is to start writing earlier. Most students make the mistake of waiting until the bitter end before they even start writing. But, that basically forces you to work on processing information and communicating it at the same time. Instead, start writing your first drafts much earlier in the process. The act of writing will help you process, and you’ll still have time to come back later and revise the paper into something far more readable.