A few years back, I was engrossed in a project that was close to my heart—a book intended to reacquaint readers with the core tenets of the Christian faith. Sounds simple, right? Not quite. The challenge lay in explaining complex theological topics like the Trinity or the divine and human nature of Jesus with simplicity and clarity.
Fast forward to the present, I find myself embarking on a similar venture. Still, in its infancy, this project has reminded me of a piece of advice I received years ago: when it comes to choosing between clarity and cleverness, always opt for clarity.
This counsel was valuable then, and it remains so today. Let’s explore why.
1. Clarity Serves Your Audience:
While it’s natural to take pride in our work and enjoy the process, writing, especially for a Christian, isn’t a self-serving exercise. The ultimate aim is to serve others with our words. And oftentimes, this service demands setting aside enticing wordplay to ensure the message is easily understood.
I recall a time when my editor and I were engaged in a lively debate about chapter titles for my upcoming book. Although he appreciated the concept behind my titles, he pointed out that they didn’t quite translate well for others. So, we changed them. In the pursuit of clarity, we honed our creativity to serve the readers better.
2. Clarity Honors Your Subject Matter:
Years ago, while part of a public speaking program, I learned that effective communication hinged on one’s profound knowledge of the subject matter. The better you understand your topic, the clearer your presentation will be.
The same rule applies to writing. Fancy phrases and complex language can often camouflage a shallow understanding of the topic. A remarkable example of depth and clarity is the late R.C. Sproul, who had a unique ability to communicate complex theological matters in a simple, relatable way. His profound understanding surpassed the surface-level familiarity we often see in our fast-paced, tweet-driven world.
3. Clarity Pushes You to Improve:
Contrary to popular belief, clarity, and cleverness aren’t mutually exclusive. Exceptional writers know how to blend both seamlessly. But this requires effort, perseverance, and continuous learning.
That’s why I commit to writing daily. Be it a blog post like this one or the early drafts of a book, every word I pen makes me a better writer and enhances my reading experience. I study the works of authors I respect to understand their choices and improve my craft.
And then, there’s feedback—the unsung hero of improvement. Whether it’s from an editor, a loved one, or a reader, feedback is crucial. It’s a mirror that shows us our blind spots. When someone tells you they can’t comprehend what you’ve written, listen. When they point out that you’re being overly clever, take note. Even if you disagree, this feedback will invariably make you a better communicator.
So, in our journey of faith and the ongoing mission to spread the good news, let’s strive for clarity in our words. Let’s ensure that the message we want to deliver resonates with those who need to hear it.