Knowing how to express oneself is important, and we use this skill every day — not only in writing. Whether at school, at your job or at home, it is important to find the right words.
The sun is shining.
Are you simply stating the weather?
Sun rays pierce through the clouds.
Are you describing the beauty of nature?
The warmth of the sun illuminates my face.
Are you expressing how the sun makes you feel?
Three sentences describe the same scene. Each is more poetic than the previous one. The English language is endlessly versatile. Even though it is not my native language, it has always been my favorite choice for writing. Over the years I have learned to use the intricacies of English to my advantage.
English has simple grammar, considering the myriad possibilities its rich vocabulary gives you. Here, you have powerful tools to convey whatever you have in mind. You are molding language to your needs. You make it fit into the shape you choose.
There are many ways to say one thing. In English one has the aid of hundreds of thousands of words. Yet it is always crucial to keep the ultimate message in mind with the big picture. One’s goal should be to express that. Each sentence and each paragraph must bring the reader closer to it.
Simplicity does matter.
It is not advisable to overwhelm the reader with big words. To be eloquent does require a rich vocabulary, but not overly obscure words. To be simple, yet complex is the real trick in writing. Even in descriptive writing I try to be very straightforward. Minimalism is a trend in UX design these days. Why can’t minimalism find its way into writing, too?
A great writer can write about the most mind-boggling subjects, yet present it in a language that is easy, but not dumbed down. Remember back to the three examples at the beginning of this post. I hope they illustrate clearly what it means to be sure what the message is going to be. One sentence can change the tone of a piece, and that is something any writer should be in full control of.
When I was studying at university, I heard this phrase: “Show, do not tell.” To me, it means that one must let the words inspire an emotional response from the reader. The words must flow and every heavy-handed passage is like a rock in the middle of a river. It breaks the current. This is something writers must avoid at any cost. That cost is accessibility, but not simplification. Another factor one must consider is the balance between writing poetically and staying factual. There is the right time for either, and sure, one may be more appropriate than the other at times. Yet this is something for later.