When a writer connects with his or her readers, they will undoubtably inspire questions.
The audience will ask: Can this help me in any way? Does this reveal some truth that can impact my thinking on a topic?
Even humor or fiction writing should provoke thoughts and questions in the reader. The best writing always does.
So how can you as a writer provoke questions within your readers—by asking your own questions first.
1. What am I trying to say?
Often times, if we take a moment to think over what exactly it is we are trying to express, we can communicate much more clearly and effectively.
2. What words will express it?
Word choice is key. As Orwell warns, if we are not careful, overused clichés and catchwords will dominate our writing.
3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
This is where the words come off the page and into the mind of the reader. How can the idea best be illustrated with a word picture?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
If you are simply reciting trite phrases that have become commonplace, the reader will quickly move past them without taking the time to consider their meaning.
5. Could I put it more shortly?
Succinctly conveying meaning can be the most difficult, but important, task of a writer. Didn’t a fairly good writer once say, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
6. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
Writing should be as attractive as possible, both in the way it flows and the manner in which it speaks of others. Occasionally, ugliness cannot be avoided, but we should look to impart beauty whenever possible.
Do you ask these questions when you write? Are there other questions that you ask which help you construct engaging individual sentences and writings as a whole?
The six questions come from Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.”