Here are some tricks of the editing trade that will make your writing look more polished instantly.
Trick #1: Use concrete rather than vague language.
Example of vague language: The weather was of an extreme nature.
Example of concrete language: Thunderstorms tore open the sky, bringing a deluge of rain.
Which sentence would make you want to continue reading?
Trick #2: Try active voice instead of passive voice.
Passive Voice: The ball was hit.
Active Voice: Barry hit the ball.
With active voice, the reader knows who did what, which is always more interesting.
Trick #3: Avoid overusing there is/are and that is/was.
Example overusing there is: There is a case of meningitis that was reported in the newspaper.
Better Example: A case of meningitis was reported in the newspaper.
Notice how eliminating there is also eliminated that was. However, this sentence is still in passive voice.
Best Example: The newspaper reported a case of meningitis.
Active voice makes the sentence less clumsy and more direct.
Trick #4: Convey ideas with one positive rather than two negatives.
Example with two negatives: Sam is not unwilling to do the report.
Unless you want to convey hesitation on the part of Sam, use the positive approach.
Better Example: Sam is willing to do the report.
Trick #5: Notice parallel construction.
Incorrect Example: Winning is the goal but to play fair is important too.
Correct Example: Winning is the goal but playing fair is important too.
By pairing playing with winning, you give the sentence balance.
Effective writing techniques are not mysterious. Use them and your writing will sparkle.
Posted on Friday, September 1, 2006, at 9:55 pm14 Comments on Become a Better Writer Instantly, Part 1