3 Simple Steps for Writing Clear Medium Articles
A lot of people dream of becoming professional writers. They sit down at the keyboard, dash off a few paragraphs, and publish the barely finished article.
After all, writing isn’t hard, and anyone can do it.
True. But clean, crisp, clear writing doesn’t come naturally. Excellent writers become excellent writers by intentional practice. Really phenomenal writers write so neatly that you barely notice you’re reading — the words are just a vehicle for the idea.
3 simple steps to clear writing
Fortunately, becoming a clear writer isn’t magic. It just takes time and practice.
As you write your articles and long form projects, ask yourself these three questions.
1. What am I trying to say?
Clear writing is impossible if you don’t have a clearly defined message. Before you even start writing, decide what you’re writing about.
If you only have a vague idea, jot down everything that even loosely relates to the issue. Think of it as a major mind dump. You might have 5 thoughts, or you might have 50. Get them all down.
Then, sift through the ideas and pull out the main points. Maybe there’s just one. Maybe there are seven.
Once you’ve gathered your main points, study them to find the correlation. Do they all make sense if you put them together in the same article? Are they about the same thing? If not, comb through again and tighten up your idea. If so, start condensing them down to the main point.
Before writing an article, you should have one sentence that summarizes your main idea.
Think of this sentence as an article thesis statement or a headline. Here are a few examples:
- 5 reasons why self-driving cars are better than human-driven cars
- 3 daily habits you should develop for a skincare routine that will keep you from aging
- Craft your characters for your next novel by answering these questions
After you develop your sentence and know exactly what you’re trying to say, write your article.
2. Have I said it in the simplest way possible?
Many new writers mistake complexity for intelligence. They pack their articles full of lengthy sentences, complicated paragraphs, and insider jargon.
While this may be a good way to hit a wordcount in an academic paper, it’s not a good way to keep your readers engaged. At first, your readers want to pay attention — after all, that’s why they clicked on your article. They’re really hoping that you don’t disappoint them. But if you use a word wrong or they have to keep re-reading the context to understand the sentence, you’ll lose readers fast.
When you write, always be kind to your reader.
Make it easy for them to understand you. Don’t waste their time. Honor them for their willingness to click on your article.
That means you should always be reviewing your writing for clarity and simplicity. Don’t say more than you need to, and don’t try to show off your vocabulary—use the simplest words that still portray your meaning. If you think it’s complicated, the reader who isn’t in your head is definitely going to struggle.
Always ask yourself if you’ve said things in the simplest way possible.
3. Can a stranger or a child understand it?
If you’re writing something complicated, have someone else read it. Don’t enlist your spouse, who’s been listening to you plan the article for days, or your mom, who will always think what you’ve written is great.
Get a friend who doesn’t understand the topic. Better yet, find a 12-year-old.
If they can read your article from start to finish and understand it completely, you’re hitting the mark. If not, it’s time to revisit steps one and two. Ask your reader for suggestions or ideas, and take their advice.
The best writing isn’t produced in a vacuum.
If they understand your article and think it’s clear and makes sense, give it one final edit before publishing it.
Following these three steps may feel like an awkward process the first time, and even the tenth time. But after writing 100 articles and focusing on clarity, you won’t need to follow the steps as closely. You’ll automatically be thinking about your reader and how to write clearly for them.
And readers can always tell when you’re thinking about them. They love it.