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Pen IN Hand
K.I.S.S. My... Writing!
By Peggy Bechko
March, 2005, 11:14

P
onder this. Why do you write (no matter what you write)? To communicate? Yes. So, tell me. What good is it if your reader is confused by what you've written?

Whether it be your novel, instruction manual, travel magazine piece or just an ad, if those reading find it difficult to follow, youíve lost 'em. Simple. The book gets closed, the magazine tossed aside, the advertising ignored. Thatís when I tell you, K.I.S.S. my... writing!
 
Okay. Bottom line. The simpler the better. Thatís not to say youíre to write "down" to your reader. Itís not that people are stupid (well, not many of them are, and plainly neither my readers nor yours are), itís just that theyíre busy. Theyíre distracted and letís face it, nobody, whatever their level of ability, wants to have to stop and decode what theyíre reading. So, simply put, keep it simple, stoopid.
 
The concept applies well to all your writing. In general, keep sentences and paragraphs short. Donít you find it off-putting when confronted by a sea of type with minimum white space? In which case, isnít it easier to scan a page that offers some breaks? Maybe itís dialog or shorter paragraphs for fiction. Perhaps itís sub-headlines in advertising copy. Any number of things can help to draw the reader into the flow of the written page. 
 
Use easily understood words. Some writers have huge vocabularies and use them well. Others, like Hemingway, opt for smaller word data bases. Steinbeck, too, loved single-syllable words. Thatís not to say you shouldn't use colorful words. Simple and colorful are not exclusive of the other.
 
The key is clarity. Donít use a $100 word when a five-cent edition will do. This is especially true when you arenít comfortable with that C-note word in the first place. When you write what you are comfortable with it will more naturally come across clearly.

Think of when you were a kid. Remember childrenís books with large print and lots of pictures? Remember that first time you decided to read a "young adult" book without pictures (well, mostly without, maybe there were a few line drawings at the top of chapters )? Kind of a shock wasnít it? I think a little bit of that kid stays with us forever -- a sort of ďhey, whereíre the pictures?Ē kind of attitude. 
 
Reading aloud to yourself is also a great help when youíre trying to keep your writing simple and clean. Remember, youíre not trying to impress your reader with the size of your vocabulary, your perfect grammar or your long, luxurious sentences. 
 
Nope, thatís not what youíre doing. You're communicating. Telling a story of some kind. Regardless of the genre, the writer is telling a story. 
 
So, think in terms of talking to a friend. When you do, are be speaking to impress, or to effeciently convey something special? 
 
Think about it.IN Icon





Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (Ebook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating with a producer on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/



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