Five Tips for Clear, Consistent Writing

September 26, 2017
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Improve the clarity and quality of your writing by following these five simple tips:woman at desk writing

  1. Use vivid, active verbs. 

Avoid excessive use of “to be”  —  is, be, etc.

Stay away from weak or vague verbs like has, do, and go.

Use verbs the reader can easily visualize — strut, skip, or stroll rather than walk.

Active verbs give life and spirit to your story.

2.  Refrain from using clichés. 

Clichés are tired and overused. They detract from your writing rather than add to it.

3.  Be consistent in formatting and style.

If you use the serial comma when listing more than two things, do so consistently throughout your writing. (I recommend using the serial comma to ensure clarity.)

If your headline is headline style with all initial caps and boldface, then do the same in subheads.

If you italicize one photo caption, italicize the captions throughout.

Note: Inconsistent formatting and style confuses the reader and interrupts the flow of the piece.

4.  Vary sentence length.

Mix it up — long and short. Sentences of all one length or form are tedious.

5.  Avoid paragraphs of all one length.

The traditional paragraph form is five sentences but there is no reason to adhere to this rule continually — vary the length. Strive for five to ten lines in full-page width per paragraph.

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