All Together Now...Remember Your Audience
"Long, complicated sentences present no obstacle to professional readers. But we don't writer for professional readers" (Cappon 37).
How many times have we been reminded to write for a specific audience? My rough guess--A lot. One thing I've learned about oft repeated phrases over the years (like, chew your food completely, don't run down the stairs, stay away from dark alleys) is that they usually carry some beneficial knowledge in them. The thing about writing for the general public, though, is, to be frank, it's difficult.
Personally, sometimes when someone points out a leap of logic in my writing, my first reaction is to be puzzled. "But, I know exactly what I mean," I'll think. The fact that I am initially confused by the concern exemplifies my need for fresh eyes. In the type of writing I'm used to doing (more literature-based, less journalism), this doesn't pose a problem. I can easily find a willing reader to offer advice. In a journalistic setting, where things are more time-sensitive, this may not always be the case. That's why it's important to get in the habit of writing sophisticated articles that Joe down the block can understand. To do this, I think we need to make our first goal (aside from accuracy) reader comprehension. If we sacrifice prose for practicality, so be it. Of course, it's possible for skill and understanding to coexist, we just have to diligently work on both. To recycle another repeated phrase, practice makes perfect.