Monday, September 12, 2016

Don’t Dumb Down Your Readers: Write Smart

Today, we are very excited to have Vonda Skelton as our special guest. Be sure to leave a comment for her in the section below.

By Vonda Skelton

Readers are smart. They’re smart because they read. And if there’s one thing smart readers hate, it’s when writers treat them like they’re dumb.

One way writers dumb down their readers is by info-dumping. Check out these examples:

“When are things going to get back to the way they were before? Can you believe it’s been ten years since daddy left us?” Marsha turned from her sister and wiped a tear. “We had to move into public housing and go on food stamps. Then our brother died and Daddy never knew. And then you had to ago into rehab. It’s all his fault.”

Let’s be honest here, would we ever have a conversation like that with our siblings? I doubt it. After all, it’s simply a retelling of facts we would both already know. It’s dumping info onto the page for the perceived benefit of the reader. But our readers won’t appreciate the so-called benefit. They can see through our ruse. They know we’re taking the easy way out.

A good writer will bring those backstory details into the plot layer by layer, revealing facts and motivations through dialogue and POV (point of view) in a more subtle, natural delivery. One detail may come out on page five when Marsha stands in line behind someone with food stamps. Another might be revealed on page twenty-three when Marsha picks up her sister at rehab and they realize it’s been exactly ten years since their father left. Using this technique, your reader will be challenged and satisfied by putting together the pieces of the puzzle.

Another way to distance our readers is through unnecessary explanation. Ever read passages similar to these?

“I don’t care what you think!” Melanie yelled again. She wanted to be sure Jason had heard her.
Carly placed the rock on the gravestone and cried because she missed her mother so much.

In these two instances, the writer assumes the reader isn’t smart enough to figure out the characters’ motivations, so he or she writes out an additional explanation. But smart readers don’t appreciate the extra work the writer has done. Instead of being a help, it’s an insult to their reading intelligence. Well-written passages with well-developed characters don’t need explanation.

Treat your readers with respect and they’ll love you for it.

Write smart!

Vonda Skelton is an entertaining speaker who loves teaching about writing and speaking and the magic that happens when you marry the two. She is the author of four books, including Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe and the Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries for kids. Her third novel, Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island, was nominated for a SIBA Book Award. Her articles have appeared in Christian and general market magazines. She is the Founder of Christian Communicators, a conference and organization dedicated to educating, validating, and launching women in their speaking ministries. Vonda is also owner of The Christian Writer’s Den writing blog and is a frequent instructor at writers’ conferences around the country. She’s currently working on a novel and screenplay. Vonda and Gary have been married all their lives—and they’re still happy about it! Visit Vonda at

(Photos courtesy of Miles/Marin/Photostock.)


Writer, don't dumb down your readers by info-dumping. via @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet.)

Treat your readers with respect and they’ll love you for it. via @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet.)


  1. Thanks Vonda. Great tips and a good reminder. Readers like to find out things on their own. Thanks for the good examples. Write on.

    1. Thank you, Tim. I'm glad you found them helpful. Your tips have been helpful for me, too! :-)

  2. Thanks, Vonda. This is pretty much what I've been saying. Only you said it better. Great post.

    1. Hahaha! You're so funny, Bruce. Sure miss you and your bride in our neck of the woods. Hope you have a great season at the beach!


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