A 5-item checklist for clear writing

Neglecting to make connections between elements in your writing can leave your audience wondering what the heck you’re trying to say. This checklist can help.

When I was a little kid I used to love those coloring books that were blank except for a sprinkling of numbers on the page. You’d locate No. 1, take your pencil and carefully draw a line to No. 2. Then you’d advance to 3, 4, 5 and so on. And when you’d finally connected all the dots, a picture would emerge. For a 6-year-old, pure magic!

Connect the Dots isn’t just a game for kids. It’s also a metaphor for the mindset you should adopt when you write. It means asking yourself: Is my writing clear enough? Will readers get my point? Is my reasoning unambiguous? In other words, have I adequately connected the dots?

Here’s a five-item checklist to help you find out:

1. Have I explained my anecdotes? I always encourage people to make their writing more interesting by weaving in stories, examples and anecdotes. When you do, you need to make sure your readers understand the point. In the anecdote that launched this newsletter, for example, I used a bridging sentence (“Connect the Dots isn’t just a game for kids.”) to make the association clear. You can also sometimes do this with a single word such as: “similarly” or “likewise.”

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