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Simplicity

Questions For Study And Discussion


1. What exactly does Zinsser mean by clutter? How does he believe we can free ourselves
from clutter?
Answer: What Zinsser means by clutter is the bunching of unnecessary words in our
speech and writing. Zinsser believes we can free ourselves of clutter by simplifying how
we word things. He thinks we should reread what we have written to question whether it
will make sense to the
reader.
2. Identify the main idea in each of the thirteen paragraphs. How is each paragraph related
to Zinssers topic and purpose?
Answer: The first paragraphs main point is that American writing is too cluttered. This
relates to the overall topic because it is suggested that Americans get rid of clutter to
simplify. The second paragraphs main idea is the language of everyday American
commerce is much too complicated and wordy. It would benefit from simplification. The
third paragraphs main idea is the secret of good writing is to eliminate unnecessary
words and the most educated people are usually the ones to use unnecessary words. This
relates to the overall idea because its saying to remove unnecessary words to make it
simpler. In the fourth paragraph the main point is that the president of Zinssers university
wrote a letter that was so convoluted it was almost impossible to understand and
President Franklin D. Roosevelt experienced similar convoluted language written by his
own government. This relates to the topic by giving examples of how convoluted writing
is used. Paragraph five shows how Roosevelt came up with his own simplified version of
the memo. The President understood the power of simplicity. Paragraph six tells that
Henry David Thoreau promoted simplicity and was the master of it. That fact that
Thoreau is recognized as such a good writer is proof that simplicity works. In paragraph
seven the main idea is that the secret to clear writing is clear thinking. When your writing
is clear it is usually simple and vice versa. The main point of paragraph eight is that there
are a lot of other things competing for the readers attention. This means that your writing
has to be clear and simple because if it is not the reader will find t information elsewhere.
Paragraph nines main point is about how many different ways writing can be unclear and
cluttered. These are things to look for in your writing to take out to simplify your writing.
Paragraph tens main point is that the reader will often blame himself for not
understanding cluttered writing. This relates to the overall topic because this is something
you want to avoid by simplifying your writing. Paragraph elevens main point is what
writers must ask themselves when writing. This helps to clear up confusing statements.
The main point of paragraph twelve is people arent born clearheaded, natural writers;
they must work on writing clearly. This tells people that they are not just bad writers, they
must just work on simple writing. The main point of paragraph thirteen is writing is hard
work. This shows that simplicity is not going to come naturally the first time.

3. In what ways do paragraphs 4-6 serve to illustrate the main idea of paragraph 3?
Answer: Paragraphs 4-6 use examples to back up the main point. Zinsser uses an example
of the president of his university using a very cluttered sentence, then he uses an example
from Franklin D. Roosevelt simplifying directions, and finally he backs it up with a quote
from Thoreau.
4. In paragraph 11, Zinsser says that writers must constantly ask themselves some
questions. What are these questions and why are they important?
Answer: The questions Zinsser says that writers must constantly ask themselves are
What am I trying to say?, Have I said it?, and Is it clear to someone
encountering the subject for the first time? These questions are important because,
number one, you have to know what you are trying to say before anyone else can.
Number two, if you havent said it, then you will need to reword. Number three,
because it is easy to forget that not everyone knows as much as you do about certain
subjects, so it is important to make sure you have written simply in a way anyone can
understand.
5. How to Zinssers first and last paragraphs serve to introduce and conclude his essay?
Answer: Zinssers first paragraph introduces the topic of clutter in our writing. He
concludes his essay by stating how difficult it is to unclutter.
6. What is the relationship between thinking and writing for Zinsser?
Answer: Zinsser believes you must be clearheaded to be clear in your writing. So that
ones thinking is in close relation to ones writing.
Reflection
One of my favorite readings was Simplicity because the author states that you should
make your writing as simple as possible. This was not expressed to me in school, but
it makes a lot of sense. Most of my school experience has been teachers encouraging
the class to write with complex words and sentences. The hard part of the study and
discussion was number 2, which asked to identify the main idea in each paragraph.
Some paragraphs were simpler than others; really the hardest part was trying to stay
focused on analyzing every paragraph for one question. If I were the teacher I would
say that this section is important to read, because simplicity is an important part of the
reader understanding your writing.