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Clear Blue Skies in the Heaviest Fog

Originally published in LLL US Western Division’s Connections #71, May/June 1997

“She was like clear blue skies in the heaviest fog . . .”
—E. Annie Proulx, praising her editor in the acknowledgments from her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Shipping News

Nova Scotia is famous for its fog. Like many coastal areas in Atlantic Canada, as warmer air spreads over the ocean and the frigid landscape, clouds of wet, gray mist settle along the shore. From my kitchen this time of year I can see Birches Park swathed in ghostlike veils, making the hill on Portland Street disappear and the regal copses of birch trees fade into last year’s summer memory.

Where did all the familiar landmarks go? Is that a shrub or a dog? Is that a man or a lamppost? Fog has a way of quieting and disorienting. It’s lovely in a landscape. It has no business in writing.

Clarity is important in La Leche League publications. Leaders don’t have the time to decipher the publications they read for the information and ideas they need. Extra verbiage, long anecdotes, and too many examples can make the message more difficult.

An article might be “foggy” if you need to read and reread the same passage several times to understand what it’s saying. I recognize fog in my own writing when I have trouble connecting the points I’m trying to make. Paring words, deleting repetitive sentence, condensing several sentences or paragraphs into one, and rearranging introductions and conclusions can all burn off the verbal mist.

Editing for clarity clears away the fog. The original intent, the regional flavor, and the author’s voice are left intact. When the fog lifts around here, you see what was really there all along. The hill on Portland Street, the birch trees, and the little pine tree I planted are still there. Each article becomes a part of LLL literature that will be read by Leaders we may never meet far into the future. Our messages to them need to be clear.

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