Hemingway and Clarity

I learnt the importance of clarity, after a concussion. I couldn’t read my usual authors and stopped reading, until I found For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway. There are other examples, such as Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, but Hemingway was the first very clear author I read. For Whom the Bell Tolls allowed me to read whilst having reduced concentration and dizziness, which caused me to ask, why can I read these books and not others? The answer is clarity and simplicity, though I’ll only address clarity here.

Clarity is making our words as difficult to misunderstand as possible, and when applying it, we can look to the first paragraph of this post.

Look to the following, ‘allowed me to read whilst having reduced concentration and dizziness.’ When I wrote this, I thought it was fairly clear, but there are two ways that a reader may interpret this, as reduced concentration and reduced dizziness, or as reduced concentration, alongside a sense of dizziness.  I intended the latter, and some simple reorganisation would make my intention clearer.

‘allowed me to read whilst having dizziness and reduced concentration.’

Here, there’s no possibility of misinterpreting my intent. This solution is easy, but there are more complex versions that arise during writing and I couldn’t go through all examples, though I will do others on this topic. The broad point, is that writers write to be read, and when reviewing our work, we should imagine ourselves as the reader. This helps with noticing these clarity errors.

Hopefully, this will be useful to someone, somewhere. Thanks for reading.

 

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