I rarely write expertly crafted sentences on the first try. It’s a little frustrating. But my writing often shapes up if I spend time rewriting and revising.
I feel liberated thinking about the first draft of a sentence as a prototype. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I just give it my best shot knowing that I can improve it later. My sentences – and the paragraphs they form – usually go through multiple iterations, improving bit by bit along the away.
This iterative process is an attempt to effectively design what I’m trying to communicate and I find myself asking the same sorts of questions I’d ask attempting to solve any design problem:
What is the purpose of this? What is it trying to do?
How can it be simpler?
Is it easy to understand / use?
Much like I can’t seem to turn off the parts of my brain that evaluates the graphic environment (uh oh, getting a bit jargony there), I find myself continually thinking about the effectiveness of sentences now.
Here are some sentences I’ve recently noticed in the wild, and my attempts at sprucing them up:
I’ve learned a lot.
…some common library tasks.
In a few moments, our flight attendants will offer you something to drink.
Reserve an item.
…all library touchpoints.
Why be concerned about writing?
Good informational or persuasive writing is easy to read, easy to understand and can even be enjoyable. Bad writing is a chore to read and can be confusing and frustrating. Sounds like a user experience issue to me.
The connection to UX runs deeper. In order to effectively write something informtional or persuasive not only must you understand the subject, you have to understand your audience too. In this way, writing well demonstrates respect. It shows that you care enough about your ideas – and how people will ingest them – that you’ve taken the time to think it though. While this is a nice thing for individuals to do, if you’re concerend with creating a good experience in your library, it is a necessary thing to do.
If you’re at all stoked on writing or effective communication, check out Revising Prose by Richard Lanham. It reminds me of Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” not only because it is short and funny, but also because of the spirit of its message. It will teach you how to write engaging sentances using plain languge.
My interest in improving writing started with writing for websites. Letting Go of the Words is the classic text.