Clarity and the Yellow Brick Road

Clarity and the Yellow Brick Road

Remember The Wizard of Oz and the Yellow Brick Road?

We have a yellow brick road too. Just follow the lessons, which are laid out step-by-step, to achieve clarity.

Step One: Find a Good Subject

A good subject is—

  • something readers do not know much about. After all, why read about what you already know a lot about? It wastes your time, and time is valuable.
  • something that probably will interest the type of person reading your document. It therefore is important that you have some idea of the type of person you are writing for.

I like lions is not a good subject, because most people know a lot about lions.  I like aye-aye lemurs is a good subject because few people know much about them.

I like aye-aye lemurs is also a good subject because what is happening to aye-ayes involves superstition and illegal practices in farming and logging.

Lessons 2.3-2.6 cover Step One.

Step Two: Create a What Statement

A What Statement lets readers know exactly what the document is about. 

Lessons 2.7-2.13 cover Step Two.

Step Three: Create a Hyperthesis

A hyperthesis is a 1-2 sentence statement.  It combines the What Statement with a Why Statement.  The Why Statement tells why the What Statement is true or important. 

Lessons 2.14-2.18 cover Step Three

Step Four: Create a Summary Paragraph

This step applies to formal documents, such as research papers, major business reports, and academic articles.  It also applies to how-to papers, sales letters, and most memos.

Create a short summary paragraph that will be the first paragraph of the paper. The paragraph must incorporate the hyperthesis.

The shorter the summary paragraph is, the most effective it is, because it helps readers focus.  The paragraph can be just the hyperthesis. Thus, the summary paragraph can be as short as 1-2 sentences.

Lessons 2.19-2.20 cover the Summary Paragraph

Step Five: Research the Old and New Sections

The Old section covers information that you feel your readers probably already know about.  Such information is the foundation for the New information section that is to come.

The New section covers information that you feel your readers probably do not know much about and would find interesting. Such information is the document’s focus.

Lessons 2.21-2.26 cover how to research the Old and New sections.

Step Six: Organize the Old and New Sections

In writing, it is important to be consistent.  Try to do things the same way every time.  Carpenters, cooks, auto mechanics – in fact, just about everyone – does not do things differently every time.

Lessons ????? cover how to organize the Old and New sections.

Step Seven: Research and Organize the Why Section

The Why section consists of 1-4 reasons the subject is true or important. 

Let’s say, for example, that your subject is Aye-aye lemurs make me feel sad.  Your why section then tells why that is true or important.  It might create a Why section with two Ys (reasons): That’s because their population is being decimated due to superstition and habitat destruction.

Lessons ??? cover how to research and organize the Why Section.

Step Eight: Write the Conclusion

The Conclusion does not repeat what you already have discussed. Repeating in the Conclusion is for speeches, not for writing.

An effective Conclusion wraps up the idea. There are several ways to do that. One particularly effective way is to show the “bigger picture.”

For example, in an essay about aye-aye lemurs, the bigger picture might discuss the rapidly declining populations of all lemurs.

Lesson ??? covers how to plan, organize, and write the New Section.

Step Nine: Rewrite to Improve Information and Prose

Lessons ??? show you how to cut wordiness and smooth out your sentences.

Step Ten: Check Language

Lessons ??? show you how to check of spelling and words that people often misuse.

Individual or Small-Group Activity

Complete the exercises:       Bahamas
                                               Cayman Islands

Optional Activity