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Steps Toward Clear Writing

Detailed and specific writing tells readers exactly what you want to say and gives them a reason to read what you have written.  Vague and unclear writing, on the other hand, does not motivate your reader.  Discovering the difference between clear description and vague generalization can be an important step in improving your writing. 

Examine the following paragraphs that answer the question, "What is your favorite color?" 

Observe the changes as we move from a rough draft to a more polished paragraph.

Rough draft:

Blue is my favorite color.  I like blue cars.  I like blue clothes.  For this reason, blue is my favorite color.

 A revision will add a little more detail to each sentence:

My favorite color is blue.  I like all shades of blue--from the palest sky-blue to the darkest navy.  Since I have blue eyes, I look better in blue than in any other color.  I like blue cars, especially sports cars.  I like blue eyes, especially blue-eyed boys.  For many reasons, blue is my favorite color.

This final draft has more sentence variety, specific language, and imagination:

My favorite color is blue.  I like the changing blue of the sky as it clears after an intense rain.  The deep blue of my dad's best suit makes him look distinguished and completely steadfast.  Feeling the material of my favorite blue dress-the one with the pearls sewn around the neckline-reminds me of dancing at my brother's wedding.  When I earn enough money, I want to buy a blue 1972 Chevy Impala like my grandmother used to have before she died.  I even listen to Billie Holiday sing the blues when I feel depressed. Perhaps blue is my color because, like me, it can be warm like a wool winter coat, cool like Lake Lanier in March, or just mysterious and deep like a shifting sky.

NOTE:   For the best examples, find a novel, a short story, or an essay by a writer you like and examine the writer's use of details, accurate language, and variety of sentence structure.  The above examples do not offer a formula for clear writing, but they do show how a writer might expand an original idea or a rough draft to create a fuller, more focused, and detailed image in the reader's mind.