Aside from filling my alliteration quota for the month, this leads us to one of the most important skills a writer should develop. It is the writer’s job to communicate their ideas clearly and without ambiguity. If the reader doesn’t understand something, it is the writer’s fault. This means any literate person is qualified to critique the writer’s work.
I’m hoping you might ask, how does a writer practice this essential skill? Writing blogs is an excellent source of practice. A writer should always be writing, even if it’s outside the type of writing they want to publish. In addition to blogs, I used a very unconventional method of honing my skills. I started flame wars. A flame war is a grand argument you have with a group of people over the internet. I used to post regularly to a forum dedicated to the underground heavy metal scene in California. It was the sort of place where nothing was sacred other than Slayer and Guinness. If your arguments were weak and your grammar flawed, you got the verbal beat down. It was the perfect spot for a writer to hone his or her critical thinking and argumentative prose. But it was not for the light hearted.
Luckily, there’s several other avenues where knowing the difference between Goth Metal, Black Metal, and Death Metal isn’t required. Critique groups, of course. I’ll talk more about those another week. But any place that you can write and have others review your work and communicate back with you, can provide the opportunity to practice. Forums where you write tutorials, or engage in a debate, can help.
When writing such posts, go back and proof read your work. Look for redundant sentences or phrases. You don’t want redundant phrases. Like that. Consider how each sentence you write could be misinterpreted. A sentence like, "The man bought his girl friend a new puppy and she had him fixed," can be interpreted multiple ways.
I have a habit of using “just,” “very,” and “really,” too often. So I just go through and really delete the very few unnecessary words I find. I’ll say that again. I go through and delete unnecessary words. The word “really” is supposed to strengthen the word that follows it. But I find that it’s used so often these days, it actually accomplishes the opposite.
In conclusion, remember two things. Clarity is one of the most important skills a writer must strive to master. It is also a skill that can not be mastered. You will always have room for improvement. And two, always remember it is the writer’s job to communicate clearly. If a reader doesn’t understand, they either represent a greater number of potential readers that will equally struggle, or they are an outlier. Be careful about assuming the latter too soon. Never argue with a reader who doesn’t understand your writing. If they didn’t understand it, then you, the writer, failed to reach them. From this perspective, they are always right in their criticism of your work.