Are Diamonds a Writer’s Best Friend?
Every jeweler and most people who’ve shopped seriously for hand candy know the 4 Cs of diamond quality: Clarity, Color, Cut and Carat Weight. It’s a worldwide standard for assessing the worth of the rock you’re considering. Best of all, it comes in an alliterative list – always a handy memory aid.
Writing has its own standards for assessing whether a work shines or should be sent back for more polishing. So here they are:
The 4 Cs Guide for Writers
In a diamond, clarity measures whether flaws and blemishes are clouding the stone.
Clarity is essential in writing, too. Is your message clear? Do your sentences convey what you want to say straightforwardly? Keep sentence structure and word choice simple; don’t try to dress things up with unnecessary words and elaborate construction. This is especially important in marketing copy, where information matters more than style.
It’s really the lack of color that adds value to a diamond. Not to be confused with clarity, color has to do with the overall hue of the stone and is often invisible to the untrained eye.
We’ll deviate here and declare that good writing does have color. So, make your descriptions vibrant and lively. Help the reader to see the world you’re creating by using vivid imagery and memorable quotes if you have any. But be sparing; don’t saturate with so much color that you overwhelm your reader.
The gem gets its sparkle from the precise work of the diamond cutter who shapes it by cutting in facets; later, the polisher will burnish the stone for maximum brilliance.
For the writer, we’ll call this Craft. Most writing is not an art but a craft whose techniques can be mastered with practice and expert guidance. Learn and obey the rules of grammar, punctuation, word usage and style. (It wouldn’t hurt to invest in a guide like Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.) And oh, by the way: Proper grammar does matter, at least until you know the rules well enough to break them.
Literally the weight of the diamond, this is simply a more-is-better standard (assuming the other 3 Cs are doing their jobs).
In writing, let’s call it Consequence. Do your words have it? Do you have something to say, and does it mean anything to you or your reader? It needn’t be heavy and dramatic; it just needs to matter in some way. For instance, a humorous piece may feel light and insignificant but it can reveal important things about ourselves and the world.
Bring Out Your Diamond in the Rough
Every diamond starts as a chunk of black rock that must be cut away to reveal the gem within. Even then, there’s considerable work to be done before it can sparkle on the ring finger of some lucky bride-to-be. Writing also takes a lot of cutting and shaping, but if you keep the 4 Cs in mind, you’re more likely to craft sparkling prose.