Archive for June, 2008

Communicating clearly

June 5, 2008 Leave a comment

Problem statement: Why is writing something easy, appealing and informative to read so difficult?
Motivation: The ability to communicate your knowledge clearly will make or break whatever case you are trying to make. In my case my master’s thesis.

No matter anyone says, writing an understandable thesis is hard. I keep forgetting that at the time of writing, the authors are the “experts” on the issues that they are writing about. So in my case, anything that I write down is from someone who already knows pretty much everything there is to know about that particular concept. Yes, at the time of writing, I understand everything I put down on that electronic sheet of paper. The tricky part here is that everything I do not write down, I compensate for it with the information that is already in my head. So at that time, I am not bothered if I leave out something that helps with understanding the concepts better. Yet, clearly, other scholars do not have that same knowledge on that particular concept that I have, so they get confused. To prove this, all I have to do is review these pieces again after some time (like a week or maybe 2). That results in me getting confused more times than I want to be. It is quite frustrating that I often go “Okay, I know what I am trying to say, but it is not written down clearly enough. I can write this down better” to the dreaded “I have no idea what I am trying to say here at all!”. And if I, the author of the text, do not understand it, how are other scholars supposed to understand it?

“Speak for yourself, I understand everything of everything.”

Sure, those active in the same research areas probably could, after some thinking and with some assumptions. Still, this will not really motivate them to read the whole thing. This stuff has to be easy and completely comprehensible on the first read. So while it feels like I have to go out of my way to make things extra simple to read and understand, it is actually the normal way of writing something. Otherwise, nobody, barring the very up to date experts, will understand what you are trying to say, which is not a good thing.

“I find that hard to believe. Surely, anything that you can comprehend is something that everyone else can comprehend, easily.”

As if, but that is the right attitude to have. As long as you write it in such a way that even those only slightly familiar with the concept can understand, I would say you are well on your way!