If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

“If you can’t explain it simply,you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein said and he was one hundred percent on the mark, in my humble opinion at least. Did you ever try to explain something to someone, whether a recipe or your take on the latest political crisis (and these days there are many of those!) and suddenly you get stuck like a back tire going round and round in the mud – not budging a single inch? Then you realize that perhaps you need to re-check that old recipe card or clarify that what you heard from this morning’s main stream media newscast about the latest Israeli / Hamas attacks was actually accurate before you say one more word.

It’s sort of like that in writing.

If you feel compelled to write with big words or phrases such as “in light of the fact that” instead of simply “because”, perhaps you are really trying to cover up the fact that you really don’t know what you are talking about but want to make it appear that you do.

In Jack Hamann’s article in the June 2014 “The Writer” he says that very thing:

” My drafts were clogged with phrases such as “in light of the fact that…” instead of simply “because; “with the exception of” instead of “except”; “at the present time” instead of “now”. Paragraphs were peppered with prepositional phrases (ah- don’t you just love those two words.. prepositional phrases…), passive verbs and circumlocutions. Sentences were stuffed with mumbo -jumbo: heretofore and whereas. And circumlocution.”

His article is titled “Less Legal” yet it applies to writing in general. Law Professor Megan McAlpin stated ” I think there is a desire to sound smart, but you actually sound smarter if you can take something complex and make it clear to anybody.”

We can all look up fancy words and plug them into our prose but it is a lot more difficult and ‘talented’ to be able to choose NOT to use those big words so that ALL of your readers will understand your piece and even more importantly, walk away with the very message you meant them to receive.

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