Essential to good writing is to make sure that the message you want to convey is the message that your reader receives. With all too many writers, what the person means to say and how he actually says it are two different things. The reader gets a very different message than what was intended. That is, if he gets any message at all. This is why, when proofing your work, you have to take the role of your reader. You know what you mean to say, but will your reader know what you mean?
Part of the problem is using too much talk to convey a simple idea. If the reader has to work his way through all that flowery prose, will he get the full impact of the message? Yes, there are folks who think writing is a way to show off their literary skills. Too bad that the reader gets caught in a confusing jumble of fancy language that obscures rather than illuminates.
In 24 years of publishing, I have never had anyone contact me and ask to explain what I meant in something I wrote. I have never been asked to clarify, restate, or otherwise transliterate my writing so the person could understand what I meant. My way is to write clearly and present ideas so that people can appreciate them and, when necessary, use them. What is better: to give a lengthy and wordy description of, say, the Naud Rune, or to get to the point and tell folks that the power manifests in things that have the root word “press” : compress, repress, pressure, suppress, etc.?
Fancy word craft is fine for novels and short stories. It has no place in books meant to inform, educate and instruct. Just look at an Army manual. It gets right to the point, complete with illustrations. No mincing words or fancy descriptions. Here it is; this is how it works; this is what it does and here is how you use it.
I do appreciate a good book. There are occasions when seeing things in another field provide an excellent example. Recently, I read a “how to” book on model railroading that impressed me. Within its chapters were extra things such as using layout-planning software, working with a unique track system and how to set up and use a digital control system. An average person reading that book would know about the subjects and even more, be able to do them himself. It was clear, thorough and well-illustrated. Ironically, another book I reviewed at the same time in that genre was less accommodating. It talked about a new track system and command control, but did not show much on how to use either. The book urged buying its author’s other book on track plans if one wanted to learn to use it, though. That’s a cheesy attempt at self-promotion. How much better if there had been instruction in the first book, like the competitor’s book did.
Write for your readership. Make sure that the message you send is the message they receive. Proof and edit your work with that goal in mind. If you are providing instruction, make sure that you give the reader what he needs to do it.