Writing never stops evolving. Ever.
The digital-age demands straightforward, free-flowing content; we continue to merge towards more conversational / informal tones.
But, it hasn’t always been this way. Crack open a book from the 19th century and you’ll quickly see how far we’ve come.
Writing evolves and shadows the day and age.
For the most part, we’ve gotten away from the temper and flows of eras before us. Nowadays, we frown upon complex wording and convoluted sentence structures. It’s easy to spot someone stretching to sound “intelligent” or vintage — typically, this just comes off as pompous. Research shows it’s not very effective, either.
By today’s standards, clear and concise takes the cake. 🎂
And if you want to eat it, too, you need a bit of style and flow.
While I do believe most people on Medium write in a simple fashion, I see a ton of room for improvement in rhythm (or as I like to call it, flow).
So, what is rhythm, anyway?
Rhythm is that voice you hear inside your head when reading. Can you hear me now? Good. Intrinsically, you and I decipher writing the same way we interpret oral speech.
Flow is a result of natural tones and cadence.
When writing matches speech, engagement jumps through the roof. It’s a lot easier to follow a pattern you’re familiar with. Your brain loves to connect what you read with what you’ve heard.
Strive to find a voice-like coherence in your writing.
Let’s talk how.
When people hear the words “clear and concise,” they often think of short and elementary. You might get a paragraph like this:
“We need a new plan. Our current strategy doesn’t work. Let’s think of something else. Then we won’t get behind the competition. What are your thoughts?”
Notice the rhythm there? Every sentence is like hitting yourself in the face with a plank of wood. There’s no variance in sentence length and each thought is individually packaged.
Clear and concise does not mean short and choppy, nor does it imply monotony — the quote above managed to do all three.
That’s not how we talk.
In speech, we use transition words to connect ideas — we pause at natural intervals.
Short sentence. Long sentence. Short sentence. Medium sentence.
That’s how we communicate in person. Our writing should follow the same pattern. Let’s rework the paragraph above with an air of flow and cadence.
“Since our current strategy doesn’t work, we need to think of a new plan. If we act fast, we won’t get behind the competition. What are your thoughts?”
So simple, but a world of difference, right?
So Long, Too Long
Often times, you might lose track of your tone in lengthy, convoluted sentence structures where you attempt to say more than what’s actually necessary.
Long and drawn-out is more common than quick and punchy — either way, it’s painful for readers.
Take this excerpt for example:
I was very pleased with the outcome of the game and it might be because my son played great. While my son did play exceptionally well, that’s not the main reason why I believe the game was so exciting. Not only did my son score two touchdowns, but the team came together to close out a crucial victory!
Ugh, that was actually difficult to write. The tone-deaf pattern and never-ending sentences don’t do the story justice.
Better said this way:
I was so pleased with the outcome of the game. My son played great. He scored twice! Not only did he play well, but it was a great team effort. Everyone came together at the end. What a crucial victory.
Rhythm is a constant battle of combining and deconstructing pieces to switch up the roll of sentences. You have to stay alert because poor-flow can strike in all kinds of writing.
There are too many medium sentences on Medium. (Say wut?)
This is just a theory, but I think it’s true. Short, long, whatever — you can abuse any size sentence pattern. Variability is the key.
Don’t kill the vibe.
Test Your Flow
How can you be sure? What can you do?? How do you know when you’ve reached peak level of majestic-ness in your copy???
Say it out loud. Write it how you say it.
Reading paragraphs out loud is one of the best techniques to hold your rhythm in-check. If it sounds irregular or unnatural, it’s time to put your editors hat on and rearrange some thoughts.
*Disclaimer: ‘Write it how you say it’ is not a free pass on grammatical correctness. It’s okay to cut corners and take selective risks, but never sacrifice competence.
Writing is an art; it’s a highly-powerful tool to spread information.
Even the most arduous theories can be explained elegantly with coherence and brevity — feelings will translate if you build the right flow and character.
It just takes a careful mind to do so.
Thanks for reading. To my friends on Medium, I’m working on something top-secret for you guys. It’s still in the works, but you can check the link here to get the scoop now. Feel free to join early. 😁