If there is one thing I learned from those two painful years of studying journalism, it is to state the obvious, even if it is obvious.
Unfortunately, we are many not to follow this basic rule — although it could improve drastically the quality of our work. Because something is obvious for us, we tend to leave it as it is. It is even more true for the most arrogant and self-centered writers out there. But here are five reasons why you need to explain everything although it may seem obvious to you.
- What is obvious for you isn’t for others. This is the golden rule you must learn if you want to become a good writer. We humans don’t think alike. We all have our own way of thinking, and we may view something differently — thus ending up with different conclusions. You may understand a sentence at the speed of light, but the person next to you may take more time to do so.
If you don’t follow this rule, then it’s obvious that the quality of your work will be deeply affected. Or at least, it is for me. Is it the case for you?
2. Don’t explain and leave your reader confused. If you don’t explain the complicated words you use (either because you know their meaning or because you think their meaning is obvious) or if you can’t convey your ideas in a way that can be easily understood, you may leave your reader confused rather than anything else — and it’s something you don’t want to see happening.
I remember reading a short mystery novel written by a new self-published writer. She used so many complicated words but did not bother explaining anything, nor writing footnotes, so it was just a painful book to read and I ended up tossing it aside.
3. It can make you lose your readers. There’s a big difference between writing for your own pleasure and writing to sell.
If you write for your own pleasure, i.e. if you keep your own work private with no intent to sell it, then you write what you want to write.
If you write to sell, then you can’t truly write what you want to write. For a book to make good sells, you need to think about your readers. If you don’t pay attention to their needs, their possible difficulties and their wants, then you are bound to lose them.
4. It makes you look conceited and self-centered. If you tell someone that something is obvious although it is not the case for them, they could end up thinking that you look down upon them.
Same goes for writing. Shove confusing sentences down your readers’ throat and let them feel like they are not enough educated to understand you, and not only you will look conceited, arrogant and self-centered, but you will also lose them.
No one likes to be looked down upon.
5. You have the wrong idea in mind. Because something seems obvious to you doesn’t mean you have the right idea in mind.
It’s not that uncommon to think that something is obvious when we have strong beliefs, but rare are those who actually question said beliefs.
By explaining to others what you consider yourself as obvious, you can reflect on it and maybe end up learning something new, or correcting a wrong belief.
It is also a good way to see whether you truly know this obvious thing you have in mind. If you are unable to convey this obvious idea into words, then maybe it wasn’t that obvious for you in the first place.
Now a small question for you. Have you ever wondered, before reading this blog post, if what was obvious for you was obvious for someone else?