It’s important that our words communicate what we want them to
When I edit, I look for a lack of clarity. Very often when we write, our words don’t convey exactly what we mean. I often ask writers, “What does ______ mean?”
Here’s an example I made up:
I went for a walk to see some friends, this afternoon. They were blooming beautifully as I walked past the trees. I met Jill in the park and she was so excited that her eyes jumped out of her head when she saw what I was holding.
Much is unclear in this short example. Who was Jill? Was she one of the friends that I walked to see? Is “they” my friends or the trees? Trees don’t usually bloom except in spring—is that when this happened? And where were “the” trees? Not to mention the scary concept of eyes jumping out of Jill’s head—that’s anatomically difficult and certainly not literal, so it’s not helpful in realistic or nonfiction writing (which is of course different to fantasy or sci-fi).
Here’s one way to rewrite the above (with some added detail), so that it’s clearer:
This afternoon I walked to meet Jill and Kara at a local park. On the way, I saw some beautiful flowers blooming. Jill was happy to see me. When she realised I’d brought her a present, she jumped up and down.
How might you rewrite it?
Here’s another one to try:
The backpack contained many items I considered essential to air travel: a bottle of water, a pair of old, battered reading glasses, my fully charged Kindle that had several books primed to read at my convenience, eye drops, because my eyes frequently get dry in a plane and because you can never find a recharging station when you want one a battery to recharge my devices.
This one is more of a punctuation challenge than a rewording challenge. It’s also a long sentence. If I were to rewrite it, I’d split it up into two or three shorter sentences, or make it into a bullet-pointed list. Long sentences can easily get tangled and aren’t kind to readers.
Take care that you don’t exhaust your readers or cause them to say: “What does that mean?” Ask a competent writer, or at least someone who is a discerning reader, to look through your work before you publish it.