Readers want their puzzles and mysteries to be complicated. They want everything else to be organized simply. The following tips will help make your writing easier to understand. No tip is as important as producing clear and easy reading at the 10th grade level and below, so bend a writing rule if it makes the writing easier to understand.
Put Things Into a Simple Order.
It is usually easiest for the reader if what matters most comes first. Say it. Then support or explain it. This applies to a whole paper, to each paragraph, and to most sentences. Get to the point. Ask yourself, "Why should they read this? What is most important?" Put that first. Well . . . once in a while you might put it last. But, never bury it in the middle.
Cover What Matters to the Readers.
Think about who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much. Whenever it fits, follow a policy model. State the issue. Recommend a decision or action. Describe options, pros, cons, and costs. In all cases, consider negatives, too. It may help a reader understand if you explain why not as well as why.
Make It No Longer Than Just Long Enough.
How do you keep from writing a book when a paragraph would do? One method is to build up until you cover things thoroughly. Then think about your purpose and your audience and start tearing down. You can cut away the fat, yet see that bone, muscle and skin remain. By the way, when you write to just one person, one page of text should be enough.
Create a Clear and Simple Layout.
If you write more than two pages, even a memo, lay it out as more than a string of paragraphs. Use bullets, numbers, or headings to help readers find the way. Keep layouts simple and consistent. Preserve white space. (Zoom out to a 10 or 25 percent view to judge your white space.) When you want your reader to do something, ask for it clearly and directly. Don’t bury a request in the middle of a paper or paragraph.
Make Requests Stand Out.
When you want your reader to do something, ask for it clearly and directly. Don’t bury a request in the middle of a paper or paragraph.
It can demean a reader if simple instructions include scolding terms like always, in no case, never, all, or not one. Underlining, bolding, or italicizing the don'ts can have the same ill-effect. It is like shouting.
Be Politically Correct.
This means to be polite to people you cannot see and do not know. You would never insult a stranger to his face. Avoid doing it in writing.
Use First and Second Person.
In 1890, third person was required for business writing. By the 1940s, stuffy was becoming passé. Now you may write you and me.
Talk to Yourself.
When the writing gets confusing or vague, say to yourself, "What I really mean is __." This can help pull the idea from your mind that didn’t seem to get to your paper.
As you read what you wrote, ask yourself, "So?" or, "So what?" or, "What’s the point?" This can reveal sentences with no point or purpose. Take them out or re-write them. It may also point you toward what you are leaving out.