Writing to be Understood

I don’t know how many people I have heard say this.  Authors and teachers and books and speakers have all uttered this in one form or another.

Write to be understood.

And I do try to follow this sage advice but I don’t feel the desire to have the world understand me.  No matter how hard they try, nobody will ever fully understand me and I don’t know how my writing could possible reveal part of me for my readers.  So I revised the statement.

Write to understand.

Now that one I can relate to.

One author who has my loyalty and admiration is James V. Smith, Jr.  He wrote a slim how-to book titled The Writer’s Little Helper.  Please look up the book.  It is fantastic!

Anyways in this little book there is a chapter called Writing to be Understood, hence the name of this post.  Smith talks about figuratively writing so that your work is readable and comprehensible.  That the more words per sentence the less the reader will understand and sentences that are simple and effective portray “a fact, action or paint an image”.

He also has a section within the chapter dubbed The Passive Voice Defined.  He states that amateur writers “abuse” the passive voice often and that half the time they don’t know they are doing it.    The passive is simply the object doing something to the subject.  Such as: Vegetables are eaten by Joey.  The key word is “by”.  If something is done by something else it is most likely the passive voice.   The active voice on the other hand would be something along these lines: Joey eats vegetables. 

I started to notice this infestation in my papers at school, my post drafts and my day-to-day journals.  I found a few of my own sentences and turned them around and lo and behold they fit and flowed within the passage!

Moral of this Post:  Write to understand, try not to use the passive voice and read The Writer’s Little Helper.

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