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Write To Be Read

Write To Be Read
By Shannon Evans

KISS (Keep It Simple Silly) is the perfect acronym for authors to embrace. Short simple sentences are not only easier to read but get the author's point across faster. When people really "get" something in your book they are more likely to talk about it and spread the word. Spreading the word can often translate to selling more books.

Readers today do not want to reflect on or respond to lengthy parcels of writing. They want the meat and potatoes of the work laid out for them in language that is easy to follow. While James Joyce and Herman Melville produced outstanding literature that has stood the test of time, who reads their work casually?

Academics may read it but most students will look for the movie version or the Cliff notes. Why? The sentences are often three miles long and arduous to follow. The personal pain and suffering of the reader is so great as they attempt to slog through the content that they are tempted to fling the book across the room. They just want the whale to eat the captain and be done with it all! 600 pages later they reach a conclusion that might have been made much sooner. If only Melville had to economize on the use of paper and ink perhaps his manuscript would be shorter.

How do you write to be read? First you have to engage your reader. Think back to kindergarten...reading was fun! Exciting! When we were first introduced to learning how to read it was a socially active engaging experience. We used simple language to learn phonics skills and built word walls. Writing and reading was interactive! Reading was Dick and Jane and Spot and Puff and all their silly adventures. Then we graduated to Dr. Seuss and the art of rhyming word families. Oh, the places we did go with our reading!

As authors, we need to get back to that simple carefree use of language. We need to write to be read in a way that engages the reader and makes them excited about the content. Throw out those long passages of scenery description. Economize on the length of word and the details. This is not 11th grade where you have to show your knowledge of the language, the rules of grammar, and the depth of your vocabulary.

Readers prefer:

Dialogue and lots of it

Showing and not telling by the author

Less detail

Try and be the incognito author in your book. Everytime an author interjects more than a "said" in dialogue they are butting in the scene. The author should remain as invisible as possible. Show readers through dialogue the conflict and action of your story.

If you are describing a snow storm does the reader really need to know what each flake looks like as it falls to the ground? Remove words that are not found in everyday language. Honestly, who really uses words like "ubiquitious" and "mendacious"? Use natural language and write like your audience speaks. They want a reading environment that is comfortable to them.

Writing to be read means tightly scripted work. Cut, pare down, and chop away at pretentious writing no one really wants to read. Sometimes the simplest writing can put forth the most complex ideas. When you write to be read you make every word count.

Shannon Evans, senior editor and owner of lives with her best friend Rick on Bainbridge Island in the Puget Sound just a "ferry ride from Seattle."

She works with her two Labrador assistant editors, Mocha and Luke, and her feline copy edit assistants, Caesar and Yoda. Shannon is widely recognized as one of the top writing coaches for non-fiction authors. With over 17 years teaching composition and technical writing to native and non-native English speaking students she knows how to help every writer make every word count.