- clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.
- the state or quality of being clear or transparent to the eye; pellucidity: the clarity of pure water.
“Clarity, clarity, clarity. When you become hopelessly mired in a sentence, it is best to start fresh; do not try to fight your way through against the terrible odds of syntax. Usually what is wrong is that the construction has become too involved at some point; the sentence needs to be broken apart and replaced by two or more shorter sentences.”
(Strunk & White, The Elements of Style, Macmillan, 1979)
Syntax, they said. SYNtax.
I know that sounds like some charge the government just placed on the best little whorehouse in Salt Lake City. But it isn’t. Syntax is the grammatical arrangement of words. There is a marked difference between correct and incorrect syntax. Here’s an example of the former:
“Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, of hope: death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of traveler expecting to be met at a railroad station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram.”
(Strunk & White, The Elements of Style)
Compare that to this pile of goo:
“Life is harder than we can imagine, and sometimes our imagination gets in the way of our ability to have a good time and to do some good in the world. But we can always bring ourselves back to the center by remembering that the center of us is where we came from. The center is where our imagination was born, and from there we must return so we can see the good that we must do, even if that good is somewhere other than where we should be.”
(DCV, Shit I’ve seen “Writers” Do, Carnal House, 2012)
I’d say that paragraph’s muddier than mud itself. Of course I wrote it that way to prove my point. For practice, one might segregate various parts of the paragraph and then reassemble those parts word by word. One could then put the reassembled parts together with other corrected parts, with the goal being a coherent, syntactically correct whole.