Write for your reader, not yourself

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A major problem that I often face when copyediting manuscripts is that writers often write without the reader in mind.

Sounds really strange, isn’t it? After all, if you write something, you want people to read it! Otherwise, why spend time writing? While most writers want others to read their work, what usually happens is that writers focus too much on what they want to say and not how their reader is going to read their work.

Symptoms of writers who excessively focus on themselves instead of their reader include excessive repetition, jargon that is not explained in layman terms, and liberal use of difficult words or phrases.

Imagine yourself reading a piece of work that contains the above symptoms. How likely are you to soldier on and read to the very last word? Unless you absolutely have to, you will probably find a better use for your time than to put yourself through such reading misery.

When writing, remember to frequently re-read what you have written and ask yourself if you would willingly put yourself through those words as a first-time reader. Develop a sense of whether the first-time reader would face major difficulties reading and understanding your work.

As a writer, you write to be read. Therefore, make it easy for your reader to understand your work. The more effortless it is to read your work, the more likely your reader will read to the end.

The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.

George Eliot