The Simple Life



Clear as mud. That’s the phrase my dad used whenever I tried to explain something, but just confused the issue even more. Somehow, piling one explanation on top of another never really helped any situation. Though I was trying to make myself clear, rather than clarifying the situation, I simply muddled it. Or is that muddied it?

I’m not certain when it happened, but at some point I realized I could write much better than I could speak. On paper, I can see my words and I have time to read and re-read what I’ve written before presenting it to another. When I speak, I often forget to take the time to actually think before simply blurting out whatever I may be thinking at the time. Maybe this is what my dad referred to as “running off at the mouth.”

I have since been a member of a Toastmasters Club which is a non-profit organization that teaches members public speaking and leadership skills. While it did profit me to join the group, I still believe I am a better writer than speaker.

Since writing skills are a prerequisite for my position at the newspaper, I work at doing my best and try constantly to improve. There is one quote I think of often and I believe it is attributed to William Howard Taft. The quote says, “Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood.”

It reminds me of the times when I was “clear as mud.” We often think that more and more explaining will make an issue clearer, when oftentimes, less is best. Be clear. Be concise. Be understood.

If I write so that I cannot be misunderstood, I find that I communicate more clearly. If I write in order to explain or to clarify, I tend to end up with an article that is “clear as mud.”