Although we covered the mechanics of clarity extensively in class, I feel like that kind of a lesson has its limits. As much as you try to internalize all of the prescriptions (avoiding passive voice, unnecessary prepositions, etc.), it’s difficult to remain conscious of those suggestions during the actual writing process. Of course, I suppose it doesn’t matter that much as most of the work put into making a paper clearer comes during revision.
I think, however, that the primary enemy of clarity is not poor style, but rather a poor understanding of the subject at hand. Writers often commit ‘clarity errors’ because they are acting out they’re own confusion. Agency confusion often occurs, for example, when the author does not know the circumstances of an action (In other words, you write “______ occurred” because you don’t want to disentangle some complicated causal chain).
So it’s true that some of the errors we witnessed in class came about because of an incorrect knowledge of style, structure, etc. But many of the errors also occurred probably because the author just sat down and started writing, without asking themselves what the purpose of the paper (or even each paragraph) was, or exactly what kind of argument it was that they wanted to make, or how.