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A friend recently challenged me on communicating an idea clearly, and we ended up discussing clear thinking. I explained that in the idea communication process, concepts sometimes get tangled amidst becoming sentences; other concepts interrupt or intertwine with them. It's like trying to read a sentence from a page overlayed with layers of moving sentences. That was new to him. He sees only the page.

Clear writing requires clear thinking. What supports it? What hinders it?

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closed as not a real question by Standback, John Smithers, Shantnu Tiwari, Monica Cellio, Zayne S Halsall Feb 9 '13 at 15:50

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
This question is extremely broad. I don't see how it can be given a meaningful answer. "Clear thinking" can mean a hundred things to a dozen people, and I don't understand the connection you're trying to make to writing. Perhaps you could at least give an example of a situation where "clear thinking" is necessary/useful for writing, and why it needs its own techniques. –  Standback Dec 25 '11 at 11:02

2 Answers 2

Here's a principle that serves me well: Begin by connecting with the reader, with what they already know. Then take them somewhere new.

Begin each sentence with something the reader already believes, or knows, or cares about. Put new information at the end. Then you can start the next sentence so that it connects with this new information (which they now know), and take them one more step.

The flow of your content won't always be so linear. So you can start a sentence with:

  • An idea that the reader knows from experience, or other sources.
  • Some connection to the idea with which you ended the previous sentence. Maybe you'll add to it, or restate it, or highlight an implication, or zoom in on a single detail.
  • Reconnecting with ideas you introduced before the previous sentence.

The same idea works for paragraphs, sections, chapters, and entire essays.

Connect, and take a small step. Connect again, and take another step.

I learned this principle from Joseph M. Williams's enormously helpful book Style. The subtitle is "Lessons in Clarity and Grace." I recommend it highly.

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This is more of a tip than an actual answer, but it can still help you:

Short is clear, long gets you lost.

Make sure that important and critical sentences are as small as possible, and have a paragraph just for themselves. The eyes tend to roll over long, bulky paragraphs and sentences, whereas a five-word paragraph immediately catches the eye.

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