Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Importance of Being Clear


One of the casualties in modern writing seems to be clarity. Take, for instance, this article from the Summit Daily News:

A human-triggered avalanche on Uneva Peak, near Vail Pass, on Saturday afternoon resulted in waist-deep burial and injury of a rider in a party of four.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reports that the rider was covered for about 10 seconds…

The lengthy article goes on to describe the subsequent rescue efforts and provides information on other similar avalanche incidents. Nowhere in the body of the article does it state what type of rider was injured. Snowmobiler? Snowboarder? Horseback rider?

I eventually found the answer (snowboarder) in a sidebar to the story – not in the article itself.

The only thing that’s clear is that the writer assumed her readership will know that her use of “rider” equates to “snowboarder.” That’s fine and dandy for a niche audience, but in this Age of the Internet, all sorts of readers will link to that story. Readers like me who aren’t familiar with snow sports vernacular won’t have a clue what the writer means.

Be clear. Be concise. Write on.

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