When I edit for simplicity and clarity, I like to explain to the client why things are being done. But, first, I always ask for an explanation because I'm curious as to the sentence's meaning. I never make assumptions about what the author is intending.
Next, I point out the weaknesses, and I sometimes offer suggestions for how the sentence can be stronger.
When an author finally has the opportunity to convey his or her in-depth knowledge, to share his or her passion, and to educate the masses, the temptation to write in a lofty, educated voice can be strong. More often than not, though, this results in ambiguous, baffling, and meandering prose.
The sentences tend to be slippery! The mind has a difficult time landing on concrete relationships or ideas. There is nothing to hold onto as each weak idea runs into the next, which results in a diluted consortium of words. But surely, the nugget of truth is there! And only a few words nipped here, a few words changed there, and perhaps one or two added and voila!
Ideally, though, a writer will grasp some ideas about plain language writing before beginning. It's not just for governments. It can be very helpful when writing academically.
Remember that the goal of writing is to communicate clearly. The writer and the reader are equal. You want the reader to understand your hard work. Complex prose is often a reflection of an unclear writing goal, and the complexity is as likely to confuse the writer as it is the reader. Complex prose is more time consuming to write and even more time consuming to edit.
Investigate plain language before beginning your paper! And remember, if your editor is shortening and simplifying your writing, he or she is most definitely doing you--and your readers--a favour.
Meet the Editor
I'm Coreen, and I am a copy editor, writer, instructor, digital marketer, and student of PR and Communications for organizations doing positive work in the world.