Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children
All of us are communicators. If you are a person, and you have relationships, you are a communicator. Growing in our skill as communicators is a way of growing relationally with others. C.S. Lewis, in a delightful letter to a child, offers several helpful tips that I would love to share.
This particular tip is about clarity.
One of my highest values as a communicator is clarity. I love listening to clear speakers. I love reading clear writers. From professional speeches to water-cooler conversations; from technical books to notes on post-its, clarity is beauty.
So when a listener or reader thanks me for clarity, I’m especially grateful.
The Late Great Howard Hendricks used to say, “Mist in the pulpit, is fog in the pews.” Do the work to be as clear as possible. If you are confused, your communication will be even more confusing to your audience.
Of course, Lewis’s tip does not rule out purposeful double meanings. He’s reminding us to be considerate of what we write, and to think about it from different angles to make sure that we won’t be easily misunderstood or misconstrued. Or worse, needlessly offensive.
It can be tempting to believe that it’s your listener’s job to understand you. It’s true that listening is a type of work, and must be done with effort. But we must never let this expectation turn into laziness–into an excuse–to be unclear. The more you own the responsibility to be understood, the clearer you will become.
Use more specific language: “Look a thing over there by that other thing!” Is not nearly as clear as: “What a cute little Australian Shepherd puppy beside the big oak tree on your right.”
Pay careful attention to the spelling, punctuation, even the spacing of your words: Do you mean: “God is now here” or “God is nowhere”? (Hopefully the former.)
Shorter sentences and paragraphs are generally clearer than longer ones.
So, enjoy your day! Have fun! May the clarity of your communications delight your readers and listeners. From where I sit, the cloudless sky is October blue, the trees are kissed with their autumn colors, and the temperature is most comfortable. Wish you were here.