Saturday, June 2, 2012

What Does Clarity In Writing Have To Do With Public Washrooms?

I learned a lesson this week on the value of clarity in writing.  I took my kids grocery shopping, and in usual form, the moment we were on the exact end of the store opposite the bathroom, my four-year old son, The Architect, had to use the facilities.

So we trudged with the cart load of food to the public washrooms.  Now The Architect has recently become 'morally' aware of the reason for separate bathrooms, and their connection between the differences in gender.  Therefore he no longer wants to enter the Women's room to do his business.  This is fine when my husband is with us.  However, in my opinion, he is still too little to go into the Men's room all by himself.  I just can't let him do it yet.  So through weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, I usually have to lay down martial law to get him into the bathroom I can actually enter with him.

This time, as I braced myself for the inevitable argument, The Architect noticed this sign on the washroom door, and said the following:

"Mom, look - this bathroom is for girls and old men!  I can use this bathroom!"

And that was it.  He was in, done and washed up before I could correct him, with a smile on his face.  He'd found a solution that worked for me, and for him.

What does this have to do with writing?

Simply this:  It is so important that we exercise clarity in our writing.  We cannot assume that our readers will understand what we are trying to say, just because we have a clear mental picture of the scene/plot point.  This is where critique groups can come in handy.  If your readers are saying "I don't get this..." and you have to stop and explain it, go back and give it some clarity.

Now as for my son, at some point I'm going to have to explain two things to him:

1.  What the symbol for disability means.

2.  He is not a little old man.

In the meantime, I'm going to use this lack of clarity to my advantage...
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