With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!
Sometimes clarity presents itself and you know just what to say to someone in a way that they understand immediately. Other times, well, you have to work at it, as Watterson suggests. Of course, we usually don't think we're trying to be unclear--we think we're communicating in the way we're expected to communicate. The irony is that the result can often be foggy.
What happens to create that fog? As with many things involving words, the answer can be complicated. The heart of the answer, though, is this: clarity depends on a meeting of the minds between the writer and the reader. In other words, it is negotiated and created out of that interaction. That means that being clear isn't totally up to the writer, and that is where things go sideways, at least initially.
Achieving clarity is difficult. Why?
Readers negotiate with writers to decide what a text means. As a writer, you may or may not have a good idea of who will read your work. It could be that your immediate audience is your supervisor at work. Then again, it could be (using this article as an example) that you don't know all that much about who is going to read your document and you have to make a series of educated guesses about them. I'm going to guess that you've got some post-secondary education, that you work in a white collar-type job, and that your job requires you to write--which is why you would read an article about clear and concise writing strategies.
How do you change your writing knowing that readers are jumping around and not sitting still and reading what you write word-for-word? Here are some of the strategies I talk about in a recent podcast:
Conciseness, like clarity, depends on your knowledge of your reader. If you know that your reader already knows something, that means you can skip over that topic or cover it briefly. Knowledge of your reader is the number one way to write less.
Here are four other ways to write concisely:
When I prepared the workshop I delivered on concise writing strategies, I came across these websites that you might be interested in, too:
Purdue OWL on wordiness
APA Blog on wordiness
Plain language equivalents for wordy phrases
Grammarist on wordy phrases
Good luck with your writing. And to paraphrase Mark Twain, if I'd had more time I'd have written a shorter article!