#AtoZChallenge: I is for Imply and Infer

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

I is for Imply and Infer

imply infer

Inference:  a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning (Oxford Dictionaries)

Implying: indicate the truth or existence of (something) by suggestion rather than explicit reference (Oxford Dictionaries)

Inference is a device used in writing where a reader reaches conclusions based on the information given in a text, information that implies certain things. As a writer, you don’t need to ‘tell’ a reader everything. You should trust your reader to make inferences using the words, phrases and symbols you have provided. For example:

Jack groaned as he forced his eyes open, rubbing his temples. The screech of his phone made his ears ring. He reached across the rumpled sheets to the cluttered chair that stood next to his bed, searching for the device, his arm catching the half-empty bottle of scotch and sending it clattering to the floor.

So what is the writer implying? And what can the reader infer? We can infer lots about Jack and what he has been up to. The writer is implying that he has a hangover. We haven’t been told this but can infer it from him forcing his eyes open (he is tired – late night?), he is rubbing his temples (sore head?) and that there is a half empty bottle of scotch by the bed (has he polished off the other half?). We can also infer that he is either poor or not very house-proud – he has a chair by the bed rather than a bedside table or nightstand. We even know that he doesn’t have a carpeted floor.

We infer all this without being told, and this information is given in a way that (I hope) is more entertaining than simply listing these facts about Jack. So – trust your reader, give them little snippets of your characters’ lives, in realistic situations that readers recognise and identify with (although I’m not implying for one moment that we’ve all woken up with a half bottle of scotch next to us… but you can infer what you like!) and let them draw their own conclusions.

Any tips for successful writing? Do share them by leaving a comment below.

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