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Jun 05

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Writing Elegantly

A while back, I realized that while I knew how generate amazing ideas, I lacked the ability to communicate them effectively. This was made painfully obvious to me when I took the introductory essay writing course at my college, and ended up getting B’s and C’s (and even a “D”!). That course was a wake up call for me, and helped me to understand that my writing had a major flaw: it lacked elegance.

After realizing this, I immediately started working to improve my abilities to communicate my ideas more powerfully and effectively, and to write in such a way that my readers would actually enjoy what I wrote. Over the following semester, I shaped, cut and trimmed my work with the diligence of a sculptor.

when I took the intermediate writing course, I not only got straight A’s– I got 100% on every single essay and assignment. The difference in results was staggering– so much so that the students were all asking me for help with their essays, and the teacher invited me to join the honor’s program; she said my essays were the best writing that she had seen in years! I’m not saying any of this to brag, but to emphasize the fact that anyone, even a “D” student like I was, can improve the quality of their writing dramatically by focusing on that one simple factor that I like to call elegance. Writing elegantly might require some practice, but it’s not an impossible aim to reach. Below are the three key factors I focused on. I hope you will find them as useful as I did, and that you will be satisfied by the results!

1. Be concise. If the same information or message can be conveyed with fewer words, try not to mince them. While it might seem that you can get a point across by supporting a statement with a lot of opinions and facts, it’s actually the opposite: torrents of information will overload the reader, confuse them, and will invariably bore them. Don’t force the reader to constantly ask themselves “are we there yet?”– get to the point, lest you exhaust their minds so much that they will dread reading you even more than doing chores or cleaning up their rooms!

2. Focus your writing: As with all art, writing without a focus is little more than mindless rambling. For your writing to be appreciated, it needs to have a unifying focus, and any given piece should support, rather than divert, from that focus. Even if a particular literary side-trip might seem interesting to you while you write it, it’s might not be the same for the rest of the passengers who are eagerly awaiting to reach their primary destination. Embellishment can be a good thing for writing, but impulsive detours are not.

3. Try to find novel ways to explain things: There’s always a more effective way of expressing a given idea, and it’s an ongoing challenge for us writers to think-outside-the-box enough to find these ways, and to summon the ingenuity to express ideas as powerfully as possible. This aspect of elegance takes time and effort, and is probably one of the most creativity-dependent elements of writing, but it will make all the difference if you can master it!

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