Readers Do No Work

I have a mantra in class: “Readers do no work.” If you’re James Joyce or Toni Morrison or any other writer lavishly blessed with the gifts of linguistic prestidigitation, you can presume that your readers signed up for the ride, expecting that some heavy lifting might be required of them. Most of us, though —and all of us in the realms of nonfiction and journalism — cannot presume that. It is for us to do the work first, so that none is required of our readers. Clear thinking leads to clear writing, which leads, most importantly, to clear understanding.