Some Tips for Writing Clearly.
How to be crystal clear.
When you list a bunch of countries or districts or parts of the body, don’t list them in a random order, or in alphabetical order like you’re afraid of getting in trouble for looking like you are “privileging” one of them.
Try to find a natural order and explicitly state it, for example, “He visited, in this order, Oregon, Washington, and California.” or “He visited Oregon, Washington, and finally California.”
Another example, “He owns property in several States. They are, in descending order of the value of the property, Vermont, New York State, and New Jersey.”
It there is no obvious natural order, then the order should be carefully chosen to make it easy for the reader to visualize the parts. For example, “I have friends in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho.” See what I did there? I wrote it like I knew where those States are, and was picturing them in my mind as I wrote, and inviting the reader to do the same Washington borders on Oregon, which borders on California, and so on. So in your mind’s eye you can easily picture those States on a mental map. Or if you don’t know the map you can Google up one.
When you label something in a diagram or animation, don’t do it with a line or arrow that leaves the reader wondering what exactly is being referred to. In an animation, make the part flash or jump. In a still diagram, find a way to achieve the same clarity, perhaps by shading one or two representative parts. Another good trick is to label more than one example of a type of part. To use a nontechnical easy example, instead of the word “toe” connected to a random point on a random toe, which could be misunderstood as referring to just that part of the toe, the toenail, say, or a point near a toe, which could be misunderstood to mean the whole foot, have two lines coming from the phrase “two of the ten toes (six shown)”, with each line connected to different parts of the two toes, for example to the nail of the big toe on left foot and the base of a non-big toe on the right foot.
Never assume your reader knows jargon that you do. Write stuff that would be unambiguous to an intelligent reader that knows no jargon. Consider the following statement:
“It happens inside one of the organelles found in plant cells which are called chloroplasts, and there are around 30 to 40 of them per cell.”
See the problem? The writer thinks the reader needs to be told what a chloroplast is, but not what an organelle is. This is unrealistic, and the statement is ambiguous as result. The reader could wonder whether there are 30 to 40 organelles per cell, or 30 to 40 chloroplasts per cell, especially if the diagram shows only one chloroplast in the cell, and a multitude of other organelles. Rewriting it to make it clear gives:
“It happens inside one of the chloroplasts of which there are about 30 to 40 per cell. A chloroplast is a type of organelle. An organelle is to a cell what an organ is to the body; a complex component that is like a cell within a cell.”
Remember that your reader or viewer can’t normally ask for clarification.
People reward clear writing. They also reward unclear writing. If you catch my drift.