Polish Your Writing with Style, Part 2

Posted on: May 31, 2009

In the previous article, I introduced several elements of style for your consideration. This article presents a few more.

If you are serious about improving your writing, take these suggestions about style to heart. And then expand on what you read here by keeping good reference books on style, grammar and usage at your fingertips.

Simple. Generally, limit a paragraph to one idea, expressed in six to eight lines. Do not try to pack everything you have to say in one sentence, until it sags in the middle and overflows with bits and shards of information. The key: Use your outline to sequence information in readable chunks.

Concise. In the context of writing style, this means “not wordy.” Go for substance, not filler. For example, use “now” instead of “at this moment in time.” If you must use jargon and acronyms, define each term the first time it is used in the text, and also add the term and its definition to an alphabetized glossary. If  you trim the lard from your sentences, they will be crisp and lighter on their feet.

Active. Prefer the active voice to the passive. Active verbs add conviction and liveliness to writing. They are concise and indicate clearly the agent responsible for carrying out an action. For example: “We made a mistake” (active voice) versus “Mistakes were made” (passive voice).

Precise. Avoid vague, general terms and statements. Do not snag your readers in webs of obscure gobbledygook. Support all claims with facts, figures, data, recommendations and conclusions. Be specific in plain English.

If you start applying these basic principles of style to your writing, you will notice a difference in the quality and effectiveness of your work. Your readers will thank you.


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