How to Rewrite Text to Achieve Clarity

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Basic writing principles

There are 6 simple rules to follow when editing text for clarity. These are:

  1. Read the entire sentence first to understand what the idea behind it is about.
  2. Identify words and phrases that need attention — Words and phrases that will need reworking are the ones that are vague in meaning and/or the phrase is too wordy, and descriptive words with the word ‘very’ or ‘more’ attached; if you have to put very/more in front of a descriptive word, there is a single word available that will be better suited, and in most cases just using the single word without very/more will do.
  3. Use Thesaurus to find out suitable alternatives to substitute single words. Stick to the words you would use in everyday communication.
  4. To substitute a phrase, read the sentence for meaning to clarify what the message is.
  5. Read the sentence for meaning. Does the sentence make sense? If you’re not sure, have someone else read it.
  6. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Use spell check to correct mechanical spelling mistakes but use your common sense to catch mistakes that might not be flagged by spell check.

How to edit a sentence

The following sentence will illustrate how the process works in practice.

1. Read the entire sentence first to understand what the idea behind it is about.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is a very fun and dynamic experience, represented in line with the Flying Bats Circus Books and films.

2. Identify words and phrases that need attention — Words and phrases that will need reworking are the ones that are vague in meaning and/or the phrase is too wordy, and descriptive words with the word ‘very’ or ‘more’ attached; if you have to put very/more in front of a descriptive word, there is a single word available that will be better suited, and in most cases just using the single word without very/more will do.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is a very fun and dynamic experience, represented in line with the Flying Bats Circus Books and films.

Remove the word ‘very’.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is a fun and dynamic experience, represented in line with the Flying Bats Circus Books and films.

3. Use Thesaurus to find out suitable alternatives to substitute single words. Stick to the words you would use in everyday communication.

In this example, if you decided to replace the word ‘fun’ with another, Thesaurus will give you the following choices: amusing, pleasurable, entertaining, enjoyable, and cool. Out of these alternatives ‘pleasurable and cool’ are not suitable as ‘pleasurable’ implies a bodily sensation and ‘cool’ is a slang word. So your choices are narrowed to ‘amusing’, ‘entertaining’ and ‘enjoyable’.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an amusing and dynamic experience...

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an entertaining and dynamic experience...

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an enjoyable and dynamic experience...

Looking at these choices, you will now have to decide which word to use based on their meaning. The best way to do this is to compare the words to each other. In this case, the most suitable phrase is —

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an entertaining and dynamic experience...

— because the word ‘entertaining’ means that is it ‘amusing and enjoyable’ as well as keeping you engaged in the activity. There will always be subtle differences between the choices Thesaurus gives you and this can, at times, lead to confusion so the best way to go is to choose a word that is known and clearly understood by everyone.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an entertaining and dynamic experience, represented in line with the Flying Bats Circus Books and films.

The next problem to tackle is the phrase represented in line with.

4. To substitute a phrase, read the sentence for meaning to clarify what the message is.

The phrase reads awkwardly. To find out an alternative phrase, you will have to read the sentence for meaning, to clarify to yourself what the message is. In this case, the message is to tell your audience about the visual presentation of the game, especially the fact that the game will look like the Flying Bats Circus films.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an entertaining and dynamic experience, presented in line with the Flying Bats Circus Books and films.

5. Read the sentence for meaning. Does the sentence make sense? If you’re not sure, have someone else read it.

6. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Use spell check to correct mechanical spelling mistakes but use your common sense to catch mistakes that might not be flagged by spell check.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an entertaining and dynamic experience, presented in line with the Flying Bats Circus Books and films.

The word Books should have a lowercase b as the word is just an ordinary noun and not part of the book’s title.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an entertaining and dynamic experience, presented in line with the Flying Bats Circus books and films.

The use of commas is somewhat fluid. It is mostly used to indicate a break in the text or within a list of items etc. but NEVER to separate a noun from its verb. A good way to remember where to put a comma is to place it where it would make sense to take a breath if reading out loud. This sentence is not too long so comma is not required but, strictly speaking, it isn’t wrong to keep it where it is either. The golden rule is to strive for simplicity and clarity at all times.

Flying Bats Circus Chess game is an entertaining and dynamic experience presented in line with the Flying Bats Circus books and films.

How to Get Your Message Across

To achieve clarity in your writing, you need to read your sentences for meaning.

The following questions will help you determine how effective the message is:

1. Do you understand the message the first time you read the sentence?

2. If not, where is the first point of confusion?

3. Is the sentence too long and convoluted?

If you’ve answered yes to one of these questions, then the sentence needs to be edited.

To edit your sentence for clarity:

1. Check subject-verb agreement, i.e. check that the right nouns and verbs are together.

2. Determine the message.

3. Rewrite the sentence.

When rewriting your sentence:

1. Remember to keep it short and simple.

2. Divide the message into smaller chunks.

3. Split the sentence if appropriate.

4. Remove ambiguous/weak phrases.


How to edit your writing - A practical example

Read the following sentence:

Ultimately, the good news is a healthy lifestyle including wholesome fresh produce, like fresh fruit, daily exercise and relaxation all combine to maintain a healthy body.

1. Do you understand the message the first time you read the sentence?

2. If not, where is the first point of confusion?

3. Is the sentence too long and convoluted?

4. Is there too much detail to take in?

Problem:

The sentence is too long and convoluted and the meaning gets lost in the details.


How To Edit Your Sentence

1. Check subject-verb agreement - check that the right verbs and nouns are together: Singular subject needs a singular verb. Plural subjects need plural verbs.

Problem:

Ultimately, the good news is a healthy lifestyle including wholesome fresh produce, like fresh fruit, daily exercise and relaxation all combine to maintain a healthy body.

A healthy lifestyle all combine - the subject and the verb do not belong together; lifestyle needs a singular verb = singular subject needs a singular verb

2. Determine the message. What is the sentence trying to say?

The message is that living a healthy lifestyle is good for you. The aim of this communication is to show you what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and what it can do for you - living a healthy lifestyle will maintain a healthy body.

3. Remember to keep it short and simple.

4. Divide the message into smaller chunks.

5. Split the sentence if appropriate.

6. Remove ambiguous/weak phrases.

Ultimately, the good news is that living a healthy lifestyle brings many benefits. Eating wholesome fresh produce like fresh fruit, daily exercise and relaxation all combine to maintain a healthy body.

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Comments 4 comments

Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

This is a useful hub for anyone who is editing writing. You have great ideas which should be used when rewriting articles. Another thing people should watch is the use of too many personal pronouns like "he", "she", and "it" and not knowing to whom these pronouns refer to. Voted up and sharing.


Single Shot 3 years ago

I'll have to remember that when I'm writing hubs...make sure I use the correct term for the situation or topic. Thank you very much.


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

A. Riter,

nice and very informative hub that you have here

this will surely help me to improve my writing and help to improve

the overall quality of my writing.

voted up


A. Riter profile image

A. Riter 3 years ago from A galaxy very very far away ... Author

Thank you, guys, for all your comments. I find this simple system works for me and I hope it will do for you too.

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