Michael Glover

On Writing Clearly

Dear reader, dear writer,

Very recently, the wildly successful Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, was asked to give advice about writing to young writers. Part of her reply was: ‘try for more clarity please’, be more accessible.

Similarly, the philosopher John Searle once said: ‘if you can’t say it clearly, you don’t understand it yourself’. It’s a piece of wisdom I use to guide my own writing. Be clear. Be rapidly understandable. Don’t be obscure. Don’t be unnecessarily complex.

I find it works for me, whether I’m writing academic philosophy, history, a Whatsapp message, corresponding with a colleague, or writing advertising copy.
But let’s go a little deeper. Let’s say that: clear writing is an expression of clear thinking.

The idea is that: before you can communicate clearly, you have to think clearly. To write clearly, and to think clearly, there are a couple of basic methods.

First, if you can make the same point with fewer words, use fewer words. Second, ask the question: what is the core point I want to communicate? And have the answer very clear in your mind. Be able to say: The core point I want to make is… Third, ponder the question: which words will be easiest for my reader to understand? Fourth, in general, longer sentences are harder to write, and harder to read. Therefore, in general, write shorter sentences – for your sake and for your reader’s sake.

Writing simply includes an element of thoughtfulness about the reader’s experience. It involves thinking about the reader. It’s about thinking – what might it feel like to read this? In part, writing simply is a way of reducing the burden of interpretation for the reader. I don’t want to write a complex sentence that you have to read three times before you can understand it. Therefore, I often rewrite a sentence three times, so that the sentence is short and clear and understandable. I try to make my sentences more concise. More precise. More vividly understandable.
I do the hard labour of making a complex idea easy to understand, rather than making you do the hard labour of understanding my complex sentence

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Ideally we request that we have a 10% increase in budget for testing for a week prior to launching. If the budget can not be spared we will take that 10% from the existing budget.

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– We are very flexible and are happy to provide you with as much transparency as you like but this is not done as a standard operating procedure.

– Just let us know if you want more insights and then maybe a 30-minute weekly call is a better way to discuss strategies and plans than lengthy emails.

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– The only time we’ll touch a campaign in the first 3 days is if it’s necessary and the early signs show that the campaign as it is will never reach our goals, then we’ll pivot.

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– Often we will make these during the launch as they are less important to prioritize in that first week when we are trying to launch opt-in or sales ads.

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