Writing and Communication:
4 Strategies for Improvement
1. Vibrant Verbs
Make your verbs as specific as possible. Active verbs make your writing pop. Clutter your document or manuscript with passive verbs and you’ll likely put your readers to sleep.
Eliminate all forms of the verb to be (there were, there was, there are or any variation thereof) as well as the use of go, went, gone, has, have, had, get, got, going, be, been, being, am, is, are, was, and were.
Ugh! These words not only force the reader to wait for the action or message but even hold your reader at arm’s length.
2. Weak Words
Weak words drag your writing down. Words like seem(s) or very add little to nothing to your writing. In fact, these words hold you back from the description or story that really needs to be on the page.
Other words to avoid: feel, think, just, and almost.
3. Eliminate Directionals
Directionals are usually redundant. This is one of my pet peeves as a copy editor. Replace a directional in your writing with a more specific word and your reader will draw a better picture.
Words like on, off, up, down, in, out, back, and other similar words are often wholly unnecessary.
Not so Good: The teacher told the students to sit back down in their seats.
Better: The teacher told the students to sit in their seats. (Replaced directionals without changing meaning)
Best: The teacher ordered the students to return to their seats. (Used more vibrant verbs)
Get to the point. Whenever possible, eliminate articles, prepositional phrases, adverbs, pronouns, and other words from your writing whenever possible. Look for redundancy. (See what I did there?)
The words the and that can often be eliminated. As a proofreader/copy editor, I spend a lot of time removing these extraneous words from documents.
Repetitive prepositional phrases have the same effect as hammering your reader over the head.
Check out these two sentences:
Not so Good: The two rabbits with brown hair sat beside each other under the tree next to the lake eating some leaves. (4 prepositional phrases nearly back to back)
Better: Two furry brown rabbits gathered under the tree eating leaves while the water lapped at the lakeshore. (only 2 prepositional phrases, separated)
Finally, if you can say the same thing with fewer words, please always do so. Your reader’s time is valuable. They will respect you for using their time wisely.
Past history – history
More advanced – advanced
Stand up – stand
Write down – write
Look over/go over – review
Find out – discover, determine
Look up – find, research
Talk about – discuss
Pick up – retrieve, select
Act out – perform
Make up/set up – create, arrange
(This is by no means a comprehensive list.)
Whether you write creatively or for business, these tips will force you to develop more creative sentences and help get your message across in a more concise way. Good luck and happy writing!
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