Online Writing Lab

Roane State Community College

A Brief Note About Clarity

We often assume that the more education individuals have, the better they are at writing, and that assumption frequently influences our treatment and consideration of others. But consider the two often-used examples below, given to me by a former English instructor:

I seed the man run out from the bank. He were big and he wear overhauls. He ain't no more than 10 or 15 yard fore he trip and fall and the cops hop rite on hem.

Today, in an increasingly mobile, tormented and fragmented society, the role and purpose of a company publication is to build a silhouette of pertinence and to make effective contributions toward moderation across a protean spectrum of a corporation's public. The result is good business!

Some writers may feel sorry for the author of the first example but, compared to the second, the writing is clear and informative. The writer is not trying to impress anyone, and the words he uses, even though misspelled, are understandable.

The author of the second is trying too hard. In addition to using too many long and unfamiliar words and phrases (what is a "protean spectrum"?), he attempts to draw a parallel between a company publication and a "tormented" society. "Tormented" is a pretty strong word, and is usually associated with crimes and war. He also is talking about "the role" of a publication, and his point appears to be that "the role" itself is "good business." In effect, his first sentence is so long that he forgets what he's talking about by the time he gets to the second sentence.

Avoid writing to impress others.
Write to inform, to please, and to clarify, and you will impress others.