The Paragraph n Make the paragraph the unit of composition. n Each paragraph should address a single topic.
The Paragraph Opening sentences (typically) n Suggest or provide the topic of the paragraph. and/or n Serve as a transition between this paragraph and the previous paragraph.
Paragraph size n Enormous blocks of text can be intimidating and readers tend to skim, rather than read them carefully. n At the same time, writing several short paragraphs in a row can make your ideas appear underdeveloped.
Use the active voice n More direct n More precise
n “I threw the ball.” n “The ball was thrown by me.” n “The ball was thrown.”
Active vs. Passive Voice Consider: n “There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground.” vs. n “Dead leaves covered the ground.” n “It was not long before she was very sorry that she had said what she had.” vs. n “She soon repented her words.”
Put statements in positive form n Negative form: “The author’s evidence is not strong.” n Positive form: “The author’s evidence is weak.”
Use definite, specific, concrete language. n Provide details: information, flavor, imagery. n Writing is about conveying specific information. n “A period of unfavorable weather set in.” vs. n “It rained every day for a week.”
Ecclesiastics - Quote #1: (George Orwell) n "Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account.”
Ecclesiastics - Quote #2: (King James Version) n "I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
Omit needless words n Rid your writing of clutter: “in a hasty manner” vs. “hastily” n “Who is…”, “Which was…” “My mother, who is a teacher…” vs. “My mother, a teacher,”
“The fact that…” n “Owing to the fact that” =since n “In spite of the fact that” = although n “Call attention to the fact that” = remind n “The fact that he had not = his failure succeeded” n “I was unaware of the fact that” =I didn’t know
Express coordinate ideas in similar form. n When relating two or more ideas, keep your form consistent. n Incorrect: “The French, the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.” n Correct: “The French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.”
n Incorrect: “It was both a long lecture and very tedious.” n Correct: “It was a long, tedious lecture.” n Correct: “The lecture was both long and tedious.”
Keep related words together. n Poor word placement can result in ambiguity.
n “She noticed a large bloodstain in the rug that was right in the center.”
n “She noticed a large bloodstain right in the center of the rug.”
n “A proposal to amend the ballot proposition, which has been widely criticized...”
n “A widely criticized proposal to amend the ballot proposition…” n OR n “A proposal to amend the widely criticized ballot proposition…” n (Depending on your meaning.)
Put yourself in the background n This is seldom an issue in technical writing, because of the explicit focus on a specific subject.
Write in a way that comes naturally. n Use words that come to you readily. n Write using language obvious to you and your audience. n Write first, then edit for clarity.
Write with nouns and verbs. n Construct your sentences with nouns and verbs. n Next, add those adjectives and adverbs that add content and flavor.
Do not overwrite n Stay on target! Don’t let your subject get away from you. n Illustrating your ideas with examples and metaphors can be helpful, but use moderation. n Again, rewriting is key. Get ideas on paper, then edit.
Avoid the use of qualifiers n "Rather, very, little pretty -- these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words. The constant use of the adjective little (except to indicate size) is particularly debilitating; we should all try to do a little better; we should all be very watchful of this rule, for it is a rather important one, and we are pretty sure to violate it now and then."
Don’t construct awkward adverbs. n Any adjective or participle, with an “-ly” added, can become an adverb. n Examples: tangledly, tiredly. n You should almost never do this!
Finally: Be clear n Writing is communication. n If you must be obscure, be obscure clearly.