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Writing is easy. But to get your writing easy to read is another thing.

Within the last three months since I’ve been fully-blogging in English, I’ve been using some practical techniques in order to survive by keeping the fun-level of writing. So I can maintain the fun-level of reading too.

Just a bit of a background, I’d never lived outside this country (Indonesia). At home and/or office, I use Bahasa Indonesia, Javanese, and Madurese as primary languages. The only “English” for me is from my readings (mostly technical books), and emails/chats with co-workers from several countries.

In short, English is my second language. The primary target audience of my blog is everyone who is also using English as his/her second language. That includes low literacy/low proficiency readers.

That’s why I resist the temptation of using difficult vocabularies or idioms :)

Without further adieu, here are my tips, order by importance.

General Tips

  • Less is more.
    An effective sentence means less word, more meanings. Thus, less is more.
  • Think in English.
    Don’t try to translate any English reading in your primary language. Just chew it ‘as-is’. My favorite exercise to think in English is to spell any number/count in English. Instead of “lima duabelas megabit”, I’ll spell “512 MB” as “five hundreds and twelve megabytes”.
  • Read good blogs a lot.
    Other fun tip to enrich our vocabularies is reading books and blogs. I recommend NotableWords, Paul Davidson (for some humors), Indonesia Anonymous, bstrap (geeky style), Fatih Syuhud, and Sarapan Ekonomi to name a few.

Practical Techniques

  • Use a proper word processor to write.
    Modern word processors most likely comes with Spelling and Grammar feature out-of-the-box. Use it religiously. Spell checking will deliver you from the darkness of minor mistakes.
  • Use Readability Test to QA your writing.
    The most popular is Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test. Fortunately, modern word processor is already shipped with readability test out-of-the-box. You can spell-check your writing while having it QA at the same, in the same places.
  • Use online tools when you work remotely.
    Instead of my dependencies on Microsoft Word, Corel Word Perfect, or KWord, I learn to use Writely or Writeboard. For the QA, I use Gunning-Fox Index such as Juicy Studio has offered.
  • Watch movies.
    Watching movies is a fun tip. There are about averagely 2000 words in every movie.
    But alas, vocabularies we can sucked up from any bloody movies are usually too fuckin’ rude, intended for stupid shit-uation, and said by oxymoron characters.
    From movies you get your swearsaurus enriched too. Though we’re not a saint, it’s always a good idea to watch your language :)

Improving High Density Text by Visual Clues

  • Break your point into heading and list.
    They’re easy to scan. Heading and list also help to keep your writing straight to the point.
  • Avoid a long, high density blocks of paragraph.
    Too many words at the same time means too much works. Try to stick with “a paragraph for an idea” rule. Unless you’re Emily Dickinson who can actually dancing with words, don’t try to bury your points in high density block of text (via UXMatters).
  • Blockquote and Pullquote.
    If possible, make your point easy to spot by writing them in smaller chunks. Use blockquote to emphasize critical point or conversational text (such as, you write about conversation with your friend(s) on your blog). Use pullquote to give the reader a glimpse about your long writing. Your readers will be thankful to you.
    Since I don’t employ pullquote, I suggest you read Yanti’s article as an example.
  • Use a good color.
    Try to build a convention about your style and stick to it. Example, I’m using different color to write a hyperlink. I’m also using two visual styles (yellow background and red foreground) to mark one or two important sentences in a high density paragraph.
    (Sorry, you won’t be able to see these colors in your feed reader/aggregator)

Other Tidbits

I keep my Flesch-Kincaid scores around 60-70, and Gunning-Fox index is about 7-8. In other words, I’ll keep my writing easy to be read as Reader’s Digest Magazine. I have wiped and/or rewritten some of my draft articles that don’t meet this “standard”. It’s hard, I know, but it has to be done.

By the way, I only got Flesch-Kincaid scores maximum 40 last year ;)

I could never have done it myself without a little help from friends:

  • Nana, who introduced me to MRM in a first place. She wrote a good tip for you, too.
  • Pipit, for being such faithful friend and English teacher. If you read Indonesia, make sure to bookmark her ongoing series (1, 2, 3)
  • Silverlines, for being such a wonderful friend.

I’m no Charlie, so any credits will go to these Angels of “English” ;)

Please, for my writing, don’t hesitate to be a so-called Nazi grammar helpful friends.
I’m all ears for any improvements.