“That has got to be one of stupidest movies I have ever seen.” My friend sat curled on the couch with half a snarl as the credits rolled for The Sixth Sense. “You would have had to have seen the whole thing to get it,” I explained. Coming in on the middle of a movie with a complex or fast-paced plot is never a good idea. Unless you start at the beginning, the end is a confusing disappointment.
Beginning Your Journey
We’ve all experienced a similar situation with a poorly plotted movie or book, or when someone spills the beans and tells you that the bomber is really the main character suffering from multiple personality disorder, right after you read the first chapter of Three by Ted Dekker. (Oops! If you haven’t read the story, it’s still well worth the read.) To continue with our Clearer Writing Steps, this same principal of logical flow holds true for your writing.
Your writing must have a destination (focus), but it also must have a means to get to that destination. Every article, blog post, or story is a journey. There are no short cuts and you must know where you are going. In order to write clearly, your writing must follow a logical flow.
Step Two:Keep It Flowing
Just as in the movies, your writing needs to have a clear cut beginning, middle, and end. Your beginning should captivate the reader’s attention and compel them to keep reading. Attention spans are short on the Web, and if your opening is dull, your readers move on.
Introduce Your Destination
Introducing your writing should ease the reader into the point you are trying to make, and if possible, present some kind of tension. This tension can be in the form of two opposing view points, a controversial statement, or a question posed to the reader. Tension is not an essential element for every piece, but it does help draw your readers in and keep them hanging on until the end.
Writing the Body: Digging Into Meat and Potatoes
The body of your article is the meat and potatoes of your writing. This area presents facts supporting your argument, informs the reader, or tells your tale. The body should be streamlined, just like a trip on the highway. This means every point should carry your reader closer to the destination. The scenic route may be great for a country drive, but it is not pleasant in writing. No one wants to read a meandering, winding story with no real destination.
Each paragraph has its own theme or point to make. Sentences should be short, as should each paragraph. Online content is not the same as a college thesis. Each idea should flow logically from one idea to the next, with transitioning sentences where necessary. Break the flow and you lose your reader.
Wrapping It Up: The Fortune Cookie of Writing
Clear writing also includes a conclusion. This does not mean that you can copy and paste your opening paragraph at the end of the piece. Repetitive facts are boring and not worth the time it takes to read them. One way to create a nice wrap up is to read each paragraph of your body and ask yourself what four words summarize each paragraph. I call this this the fortune cookie method. Each paragraph is condensed into a short and sweet Chinese proverb to be listed in your conclusion.
Keeping your writing flowing from beginning to end helps make your posts pleasant instead of painful to read. For clearer writing, hug the curves, check the map often, and put up a few roadsigns along the course to help others find their way.