Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Qualities of Effective Writing: Write with Clarity

Explain your ideas . . . clearly.
Use proper grammar and enough of the best evidence available.

To write with clarity is to ensure your ideas have been supported with enough evidence and enough of the best evidence available.

When a writer presents an essay to readers, that essay must explain the main point all on its own.  That essay is the writer's only outlet for saying all of the things that need to be said to support the position or claim the writer made in the thesis statement.  In order to achieve that level of clarity, the writer must use enough of the right kind of evidence.

Revising for Clarity

An Underdeveloped Paragraph

Take a look at this example of a paragraph that doesn't clearly support its main idea.  It lacks enough evidence to prove the position taken in the topic sentence.

I deserve an "A" for my project.  I was professional during the presentation, and it was easy to be respectful and have integrity.  I cared about the project.  It was engaging.

Do you buy it?  Do you think this student presents enough evidence to prove he deserves an "A" for his project?  Do you have any additional questions for this writer about why he claims to be professional, or what he means by respect and integrity being easy?  Does he prove to you that he cared about the project, or that he was engaged with it?

It doesn't convince me, so let's revise it to make it more convincing.

A Paragraph Revised for Clarity

The previous paragraph has good "bones," but it's missing evidence.  It needs examples and explanation to prove the points the writer is trying to make.  Remember, you cannot expect a reader to always "take your word for it."  Your job as a writer is to prove the point you are trying to make.  Notice all of the real examples in the following revision.

I deserve an "A" for my class presentation about gerunds.  Not only did I wear professional dress during the presentation, but I spoke clearly, had a practiced and revised speech, and supported the content with a visual aid.  I respected my classmates by arriving on time and paying close attention to their presentations, as well.  I demonstrated academic honesty and integrity throughout the presentation: All of my sources were clearly cited, and I used the best and most credible information I could find.  Having a partner who was slightly confused, I cared enough to reach out to her to be sure she understood the information, and I jumped in and assisted her with the visual aid when I realized she was struggling.  I truly engaged with the course material I presented, and I achieved an "A" on the quiz I took early in order to be sure I was presenting the material accurately.  I truly believe I demonstrated these five qualities and more during this presentation project, and I therefore deserve an "A."


I think so.  

Remember, clarity does not just mean you use good grammar to make yourself clear.  More importantly, clarity is the quality of having presented enough of the right kind of evidence to prove the point you are making in your thesis statement and topic sentences.

Want to learn more about writing essays?

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Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

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