9 tips to help you write clear text

The publishing house “MIF” published a book with a motivating title – “Write, lazy * opa.” This is a manual for those who need to write not to earn money, but for themselves or to communicate with others. The author is Pasha Fedorov, director of production at Palindrome , creator of the Pasha and his procrastination Telegram channel and former editor-in-chief of Lifehacker. We invite you to read an excerpt from the sixth chapter and learn how to put your thoughts into understandable text.

1. Be honest

Honesty is the courtesy of kings and good writers. When you are honest with the reader, he repays you with love (or its imitation). Don’t try to fool people: they will understand.

If you are a blogger, please do not try to pass off advertising as non-advertising. This often looks stupid, affected and dishonest. Many have the argument “smart people read me, they understand where advertising is and where it is not.” Yes it is. And this is precisely the problem: people see that this is an advertisement, and they feel false. And trust, little by little, drop by drop, but falls. You don’t need to put up a banner saying “I HAVE BEEN PAID FOR THIS POST” but even a slight hint will clear your conscience.

But do not forget: some people can be inattentive. Once, a channel subscriber wrote to me: she told me what she likes, and added that the only posts that infuriate her are posts about the English school. “In general, the channel is very useful, but this particular post here is the best nonsense.” Needless to say, it was a series of publications with the hashtag #advertising ? She didn’t even notice him.

2. Don’t show off if you don’t know how

“The golden rain that poured on certain layers of Karelian state employees caused a whole range of feelings – from joyful surprise to resentment and bewilderment. Few people realized what it actually was.

Whenever you can be direct, be direct.

3. Trinkets

With this short-handed word, I call all the words and turns that do not play a role in the text, but are needed to convey the right emotions, tone, mood: jokes, comparisons, diminutive intonations.

First business, and then tricks and prettiness.

Let me explain with an example. You have a small online store, you need to write a “Delivery” page on the site. You, all so fashionable, made up the page, filled it with clever phrases “we don’t work with” and “we follow the principles”, added large pictures to control attention . Cool, juicy, powerful!

Here is your client. He visits the page to find out if they deliver to the village of Khrenyukovichi and how much it costs. And here is a fashionable layout in front of him. And he doesn’t give a damn what your principles are. He wants to know what’s going on with the Khrenyukoviches. He has no time to read your trinkets: he needs to give his Matrona a gift the day after tomorrow. He wants to understand whether the package will reach his village and whether he will go broke on delivery. And he will either randomly scroll the page, or, if he is an advanced PC user, he will press Ctrl + F and drive some key phrase into the page search. And then he will spit at his feet and scratch for a gift in a department store.

In short, the important thing is to start. And beauty, if completely unbearable, then.

4. The shorter the better

The fewer words in a sentence or paragraph, the better. The shorter, the clearer. Nevertheless, you should not bring this advice to the point of absurdity and reduce each sentence to a subject and a predicate.

“I went. Came. Did things. Came back home. Went to sleep. A good day”.

No, no, no, you don’t have to make yourself into a thoughtless machine for killing “unnecessary words”. Remember Orwell and Newspeak. We need more different and beautiful words, but less. When I write a text, I formulate it right on the go. Because of this, the narrative gets lost and unnecessary pieces appear. While I am writing, there is a feeling that they are not superfluous, but very much in the subject and solve an important task. And I start rewriting – ugh, why the hell did I write this stupid comparison here? Do you understand what I mean?

The shorter you write, the clearer it comes out. If you cut out unnecessary words and phrases from the text, you shorten the reader’s path to the main idea.

See:

“Coming out of the yard, I breathed in the smell of leaves: autumn was already approaching, and yet I was still walking in shorts and a T-shirt, even despite the cool wind, I just felt warm, especially since I went to football.”

What have we learned? Oh yes, a lot. And now:

“It was cold outside, but I went to football in shorts and a T-shirt.”

What have we learned now? Much less, but nothing important is lost. They just removed the extra art. Of course, if your posts are getting thousands of likes for just such details, just ignore my advice. But if not, cut back.

However, don’t overuse it.

Without long sentences that are so strangely structured that it seems as if they have already ended and a new thought has begun, but no, this is still the same sentence that has been crammed with a bunch of things and may not have been fully agreed upon, omitted commas or added extra , but it still does not end and does not end, and the problem with such proposals is precisely that people lose their thoughts, understand that they are not welcome here, and therefore leave, – I think it makes no sense to say that this does not bring you no benefit, but only harm and disappointment on the part of someone who could become your ardent fan and glorify all your creations in the name of the best people in this universe.

Did you understand what I wanted to say? Now I don’t understand anymore.

How to be?

Just read it out loud! All the places where you stumble deserve attention: somewhere you can shorten it, somewhere you can add details, somewhere you can change places. But do not forget: you need to do this when the first draft is already ready, and not in the process. Otherwise , the inner critic will bite you.

Keep it short, but don’t be absurd.

5. “The reader must roll through the butter”

This advice was given to me a long time ago by Vlad Tsyplukhin, head of product at the Komitet publishing house. Literally, the phrase sounds like this (I had to turn over the mountain of correspondence, but I found it):

The text should have a plot, the reader should roll through the butter from the first line to the last. The best way to write a good text is to read it yourself twenty times.

Yep, not the best metaphor. However, it’s pretty accurate.

If the reader is walking through the text and constantly stumbling, this is bad. Or close, or do not understand, or get angry – a lot of options in which everything does not go according to plan. Try to make the reader slide down the text as if on ice.

How to be?

Believe it or not, read it out loud. And again, pay attention to all the places where you stumble. Unfamiliar word ? Difficult turnover? Rewrite and replace!

6. Don’t write the way you speak

Often in books or blogs you can find advice: “Write as if you are talking.” Please do not. When we speak (if we didn’t prepare in advance), we formulate thoughts on the spot: we choose not the simplest designs, we often repeat thoughts . This is completely normal.

The text should be concise and clearer than speech.

The text helps to formulate thoughts, focus and say only what you want. You might think. When talking, you often don’t have such a whim.

Try not to write the way you speak. Try talking like you’re writing.

7. Think Small

Imagine: the structure is ready, and right now your task is to write a paragraph. Not an entire article, not a chapter, not a page – a paragraph. As soon as this milestone is overcome, it’s time to take on a new one. Big text is just text for many paragraphs, and not a big deep ancient evil that needs to be jumped over at a time. On the contrary: the smaller you think in the process, the better. Write in paragraphs, not articles.

To plan the text as a whole, we talked about the structure: you just build a skeleton, build a bridge (yes, it’s better not to use such banal metaphors, bad Pasha, bad). And just climb it.

If you look at the text in its entirety, you will easily get stuck. And it’s good if it’s somewhere in the middle or even closer to the end. With a much higher probability, you simply won’t start, because: well, it’s a lot to write, but who can handle it at all, but what’s going on! And if you perceive your work as a ladder with steps, then you understand: one step, the second, the third – and now it’s not so scary, and now you are somewhere at the top, and now the main thing is not to look down. Or watch and admire yourself.

Write text in paragraphs, and plan before you start.

8. The main thing is to be understood

If you are writing something that is entertaining, such as a romance novel or a Peek-A-Boo article, then the main thing is that the reader is interested. In all other cases, the priority is to make it clear to the reader.

An article , a post on a social network, a personal or business letter – the task of all these texts is to be understood and responded to correctly.

And just in order to be understood, you need to build an adequate structure, select unhackneyed words and check the text for errors. Not because it’s the way it is.

The main thing is to be understood.

9. Fear of simplicity

Fear of simplicity is when a person is afraid to write too simply, so he begins to twist the text with all sorts of trinkets, embellishments and other jewelry.

Here, for example, an announcement in kindergarten:

“May 29 we vaccinate” . No, it’s a bit too dumb and simple.
“Vaccinations will be done on May 29” . Well, it got better. But still somehow not serious.
“On May 29, the process of installing vaccinations will be carried out.” Now, it’s solid, but it seems that something is missing. Hm. Ah, right!
“On May 29, the process of installing vaccinations for children will be carried out, do not feed them until kindergarten.” Yes, it’s easy again! What are you…

594 versions later:

“05/29/2019, according to the order of the administration of MOUAUSOUAUSUAUAUUASH “Kindergarten “Petlichka””, specialists of the medical institution GOBUUZUZ “Children’s stationary polyclinic No. The vaccination process must be carried out on an empty stomach, therefore the administration of the kindergarten strongly urges not to feed all children belonging to the family aged 4-6 years before visiting the MOUAUSOUAUUSOUSUAUAUUASH “Petlichka Kindergarten”.”

If it seems to you that the example is too exaggerated, then it is: I deliberately made it as dumb as possible. But here’s another example for you. I open VKontakte, and there is a post from one of my friends in the feed, then a quote.

“This is how a meeting of the Interdepartmental Commission for the selection of candidates for election to the boards of directors and audit commissions of joint-stock companies owned by the Russian Federation by more than a quarter, but not completely (“paketniks”) takes place in the context of a pandemic.”

These people live among us guys.

I come to the traffic police to write an explanatory note (recorded on the DVR of an eccentric who raced along the opposite lane on the one-way street). He wrote everything, the inspector looks and says: “Add the phrase“ this car ”here.” Why why? That’s the way it is, he says. And, of course, no one was charged.

Walk through any municipal institutions (kindergartens, hospitals) – everyone around writes orders, notes and announcements in clerical language, because they think: “You can’t write too simply and unofficially.” Of course, such texts appear for a hundred reasons, but the fear that it will seem too simple and undignified is one of them.

I have terrible news for you.

Writing is not only possible, but necessary.

The simpler, the clearer. The more understandable, the greater the chance that you will be perceived correctly and will be trusted. But isn’t that the main thing? Yes, yes, that’s exactly it.

General rules for clear text, advice on word choice and structure, notes on netiquette , and self-checking exercises can all be found in Write, Lazy *Oops.

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