How do we learn to write more clearly?

(SeanO) #1

A huge part of communicating on Connect is writing clearly. I was reading an article on writing a good blog post and it made an excellent point.

Your writing is the instruction manual for assembling ideas in your reader’s mind

What we write is a guide to how our reader should construct their own thoughts in response. So it goes a long way to make sure our writing is clear and well structured.

How do you try to structure your writing to make it clear?

Personally, I try to use the following principles:

  • use clear headings for sections
  • use bullets for lists so that they stand out
  • try to convey 1 Big Idea or address 1 Topic per post
  • don’t write more than 6 sentences per paragraph (otherwise it gets hard to read)

Curious about your thoughts. Blessings!

What does a great contribution to RZIM Connect look like?
(Anthony Costello ) #4


Sean, you make some good points; and some good bullet points!

I admit that my writing here on Connect is not nearly as clear or structured as it could be. I tend towards writing these responses quickly, because I feel pressed for time during the work week. I guess that is just part and parcel of have three little guys at home; one needs to work efficiently and get back for bedtime! Still, I struggle to be as diligent in my online writing as I am in my academic writing. Blog writing or posting is, in a sense, its own genre.

That said, I think bullet points can be helpful. Also, I have now come to realize that shorter paragraphs is visually a must on sites like Connect. As you said, no more than 6 sentences, and perhaps even less than that.

Further, I realize that I fail to really think through a proper structure for my responses, rather I write as things come to me. Again, very different from the normal mode of academic writing. Moreover, I really don’t check my punctuation as fastidiously as I should. Finally, I think I often try to put in too much content as I often have the feeling I have to answer questions exhaustively. That is probably less helpful than shorter answers.

Anyway, you make some good points. Perhaps with practice I will be able to write not just quickly, but also carefully.

in Christ,

(SeanO) #5

@anthony.costello Those are some good points and I definitely understand the time limitations. I for one am very glad you make the time to contribute here on the forums!

(Carson Weitnauer) #6

Hi Sean, thanks for starting this great conversation!

The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides a great list of tips:

Follow the principles below to write sentences that are clear, to the point, and easier to read.

  • Use the active voice
  • Put the action in the verb
  • Put wordy phrases on a diet
  • Reduce wordy verbs
  • Reduce prepositional phrases
  • Reduce expletive constructions
  • Avoid using vague nouns
  • Avoid unneccessarily inflated words
  • Avoid noun strings

There are many excellent resources online for learning how to think and write well. Given the importance of this skill, I encourage us to intentionally develop our ability to do so.

Let me invite us to think about why we want to write clearly in RZIM Connect.

There are the obvious practical benefits for ourselves.

Each conversation in RZIM Connect is an opportunity for our own growth and development. Do I want to strengthen habits of lazy thinking and communication? Or do I yearn to become a better thinker and communicator of the gospel? What kind of person am I becoming?

There are also the obvious benefits for other members of Connect.

We are all busy people. If I write a jumbled post in haste, I am asking ten, twenty, or a hundred other people to take additional time to decipher what I have written in a rush. But if I take a few extra minutes to communicate clearly, then I am giving my neighbor the benefit of an easy to understand post that is much more helpful to them.

Furthermore, are you likely to recommend RZIM Connect to your church, your family, and your best friend if you regularly see rambling, disorganized, poorly researched posts? The reputation of this community depends upon each member contributing their very best - not what they can make time for in a rush. To paraphrase and adapt a saying I’ve heard many times, “If you can’t something helpful, don’t say anything at all.”

But perhaps most fundamentally, as Christians, we are responsible before God for every word we speak - or type.

A few verses come to mind:

Proverbs 10:19
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

James 1:19-20
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Colossians 4:6
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

May God find all the words in RZIM Connect acceptable in his sight!

I look forward to learning from your best contribution to this discussion!