November 10, 2009
As you write you need to consider how much work you make your reader do.
This came up in a book I was editing recently. One of the nice things about writing for the Prags is that at more than one point in the life of each book the Prags themselves will take a look at it and share comments with the editor.
I was struggling the other day with making a sentence better in a one of my books and I asked Dave for a fresh pair of eyes. He gave me two answers. The first was a nice fix that made the sentence better. The second was a broader observation which I encounter way too often when I’m editing.
The author had taken an easy way out and placed the burden on the reader. The sentence was a bit hard to decipher. That sentence and all others in the book would be written once or twice but would be read thousands of times. If the author would put more time into smoothing out the sentence and making the path and the intent clear then a thousand pair of eyebrows won’t furrow and a thousand hours of reader time won’t be wasted.
Don’t make it hard for your reader to keep reading.
This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.