Whether you’re composing a blog or a business letter, an email or an essay, our goal should be to respond clearly and directly to the needs and interests of our readers.
Follow these ten quick tips to improve your writing whenever you set out to inform or persuade.
- Lead with your main idea.
As a general rule, state the main idea of a paragraph in the first sentence–the topic sentence. Don’t keep your readers guessing.
- Vary the length of your sentences.
In general, use short sentences to emphasize ideas. Use longer sentences to explain, define, or illustrate ideas.
- Put key words and ideas at the beginning or end of a sentence.
Don’t bury a main point in the middle of a long sentence. To emphasize key words, place them at the beginning or (better yet) at the end.
- Vary sentence types and structures.
Vary sentence types by including occasional questions and commands. Vary sentence structures by blending simple, compound, and complex sentences.
- Use active verbs.
Don’t overwork the passive voice or forms of the verb “to be.” Instead, use active verbs in the active voice.
- Use specific nouns and verbs.
To convey your message clearly and keep your readers engaged, use concrete and specific words that show what you mean.
- Cut the clutter.
When revising your work, eliminate unnecessary words.
- Read aloud when you revise.
When revising, you may hear problems (of tone, emphasis, word choice, and syntax) that you can’t see. So listen up!
- Actively edit and proofread.
It’s easy to overlook errors when merely looking over your work. So be on the lookout for common trouble spots when studying your final draft.
10. Use a dictionary.
When proofreading, don’t trust your spellchecker: it can tell you only if a word is a word, not if it’s the right word.