Good writing style involves not only using proper punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure (syntax), but also writing in a way that is clear and concise.

Writing Clearly

  1. Choose the word that most clearly conveys your meaning

    English words generally have two types of meanings: a denotative meaning (the descriptive dictionary definition of a word) and a connotative meaning (the emotional impact of a word). The connotation can be positive or negative. For example, the words slender, thin, and skinny have the same denotative meaning, but very different connotations.
  2. Always follow this, that, these, and those with a noun

    • Unclear: I will take this. (This what?)
    • Clear: I will take this dog.
    • Unclear: I do not want that. (Want what?)
    • Clear: I do not want that book.

Writing Concisely

  1. Eliminate unnecessary phrases and redundancies.

    • Correct: We will be home in ten days.
    • Incorrect: We will be home in a period of ten days.
  2. Use clear and straightforward language.

    • Correct: I have noticed many weeds growing around the building.
    • Incorrect: It has come to my attention that there is a vast proliferation of undesirable vegetation surrounding the periphery of this facility. 
  3. Write in active voice.

    • Correct: This week, the committee decided to vote on the issue.
    • Incorrect: A decision to vote on the issue was made by the committee this week.
  4. Shorten wordy phrases.

    • Correct: Jon will call me if he can go.
    • Incorrect: Jon will let me know in the event that he can get away and make the trip. 
  5. Avoid starting sentences with "there is", "there are", or "it is".

    • Correct: Four officers report to the captain. 
    • Incorrect: There are four officers who report to the captain.
  6. Eliminate extra nouns.

    • Correct: Luis was interested in data processing.
    • Incorrect: Luis was interested in the data processing field.
  7. Eliminate filler words such as "that", "of", or "up".

    • Correct: I said I was tired.
    • Incorrect: I said that I was tired.
    • Correct: I stepped off the curb.
    • Incorrect: I stepped off of the curb.
    • Correct: I got on the ladder.
    • Incorrect: I got up on the ladder.

For more tips on adding flow and cohesion to your sentences and paragraphs to create clarity in your writing, review our Making Your Writing Flow page.