“Easy reading is damn hard writing."

Maya Angelou summed it up nicely in her remarks at the 2013 National Book Award dinner. Dr. Angelou received the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

And she makes a great point. The more naturally words seem to flow, the less likely it is they just came together naturally.

I have three questions I ask myself while writing.

1) Would I say that out loud?

Easy reading is conversational. It's not at all uncommon to find me talking to my computer screen. Reading a sentence aloud so I can hear what it sounds like when spoken.

Why would anyone think that a sentence too cumbersome for conversation will somehow magically flow when read?

2) Is that the best verb/adverb/adjective?

Easy reading communicates quickly. Powerfully. And the power words on the page are likely to be verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Choose carefully. Challenge your choices regularly.

But, before you flex your thesaurus, think back to question one: just because you know a word doesn't mean you should use it.

3) Can I still "see the forest" here?

Easy reading is easily understood. Perhaps you've heard the saying, "can't see the forest for the trees?" Meaning someone is so caught up in details they lose sight of the overview.

Writing's a bit like that. Choosing the right words is important. Then you string them together in a sentence. Combine sentences to make a paragraph. And paragraphs to make a point.

Or is it the words that make the point? Regardless, you get my point.

No doubt there are other worthy questions, too.

What do you ask yourself? I'd love to know!