Reducing Clutter

Sometimes I end up writing long sentences full of unnecessary or “big” words – it’s a bad habit left over from my student days, when papers needed to meet a word limit or when I wanted my teachers to think I was smart. As writer-designers, our job is not to make ourselves – or even Habi! – look impressive or intelligent; our job is to clearly communicate the story. If we do that well enough, then the story should speak for itself.

Here’s how I reduce the clutter in my writing:

  1. Think about the purpose. What do I want to say? What do I want my reader to walk away knowing after reading what I wrote?
  2. Read your sentence or paragraph out loud. If you find yourself stumbling over words or saying too many things without taking a breather or a pause, you probably need to find a simpler way to communicate.
  3. Strip your sentences or paragraphs to its cleanest components. Remove every word that serves no function, replace long words with short words, break sentences down to communicate one thought at a time.

You may have a different way of reducing the clutter in the above sentence but here’s how I did it:

  • At first glance, we can shorten this sentence by not enumerating the stakeholders but my intention was to show the diversity of the people we worked with.
  • Participatory co-design is redundant – co-design is already participatory! – but co-design by itself might be a technical term with implications that can be unclear to the reader so I opted to use “collaborative design process” instead.

Reducing clutter isn’t just about shortening sentences; it’s about cleaning up a sentence so that it says exactly what you need it to say.

Reducing Clutter – Habi Plus