Rules For Effective Writing

Rule 1. Use concrete rather than vague language.

Vague: The weather was of an extreme nature on the West Coast.
This sentence raises frustrating questions: When did this extreme weather occur? What does “of an extreme nature” mean? Where on the West Coast did this take place?

Concrete: California had unusually cold weather last week.

Rule 2. A sentence fragment is usually an oversight, or a bad idea. It occurs when you have only a phrase or dependent clause but are missing an independent clause.

Sentence fragment: After the show ended.

Full sentence: After the show ended, we had coffee.

Rule 3. Use consistent grammatical form when offering several ideas. This is called parallel construction.

Correct: I admire people who are honest, reliable, and sincere.
Note that are applies to and makes sense with each of the three adjectives at the end.

Incorrect: I admire people who are honest, reliable, and have sincerity.
In this version, are does not make sense with have sincerity, and have sincerity doesn’t belong with the two adjectives honest and reliable.

Rule 4. Avoid overusing there is, there are, it is, it was, etc.

Example: There is a case of meningitis that was reported in the newspaper.

Revision: A case of meningitis was reported in the newspaper.

Even better: The newspaper reported a case of meningitis. (Active voice)

Rule 5. Use active voice whenever possible. Active voice means the subject is performing the verb. Passive voice means the subject receives the action.

Active: Barry hit the ball.

Passive: The ball was hit.

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