Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subject only in outline, but that every word tell” – W. Stunk.Jr
How well do you Write ?
Always (5), Usually (4), Sometimes (3), Rarely (2), Never (1)
- I Prefer vivid picture words to abstract words.
- I prefer one-syllable worlds to two-syllable words.
- I picture the reader clearly in my mind.
- I write in terms of the experience of the reader.
- I prefer the active to the passive voice.
- I ask myself: “Just what do I want to say” before beginning. Always, Usually
- I have one thought only in each paragraph. Always, Usually
- I avoid the use of qualifiers e.g, ‘very’, ‘little’. Always, Usually
- I try to avoid beginning sentences with ‘however’, ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘but’ or ‘nor’. Always, Usually
- My style is informal punchy and image-filled. Always, Usually
- I keep my average sentence length short. Always, Usually
- I go back over my writing to see which words I can cut out. Always, Usually
Note : Add up your score by using numbers at head of columns. Good 48 and above’; below 40, some practices need attention.
Less is More
A good writer is like a sculptor. Sculptors use less and less to express more and more. They cut way useless words and many every word count. In writing, as in all art, ‘less ’ is more. Some tips for effective writing.
- Use graphic rather than abstract words, e.g ‘scooter’ rather than ‘vehicle’, ‘jackal’ rather than ‘animal’.
- Use one syllable words rather than two syllable words, two syllable words rather than three, etc. Example: ‘bold, sweet and tears’ rather than ‘sacrifice, perspiration, sorrow’.
- Use the active voice words rather than the passive e.g, not, ‘The tyre was fixed by me’ , but‘I fixed the tyre’.
- Learn on the verbs and nouns; reduce adjectives and adverbs. Choose strong graphic verbs, e.g, ‘Ravi wrestled with the problem’. A well chosen verb makes an adverb unnecessary.
- Make each word count. Edit ruthlessly. Don’t use two words where one is sufficient.
- Keep sentences short. Brevity and clarity are the thing.
- Concentrate on paragraph development. One paragraph, one ideal. Clear writing comes from clear thinking.
- Relate the experience to your reader; e.g if for fisherman, then refer to foci, wind, nets, sea and sand.
- Write, as Gunning says, not to impress but to express.
- Be reader oriented. The reader’s interest tires quickly. Be personal, use questions to reader, exclamations.
- Writing is hard work. You have no tone or gesture to help you. ‘Good sentences are not written, they are rewritten.’
- Every league has its own music. Read your word aloud to see whether it has the correct ‘feel’.
In words of one syllable
When you come write down to it, there is no lay that says you have to use big words when you write or talk. There are lots of small words and good ones. It may take a bit more time to find them at once, but it can be well worth it, for all of us know what they mean. Some small words, more than you might think, are rich with just the right feel, the right taste, as if made to help you say thing as it should be said.
One way of improving your writing style is to imitate sentences of great writers. Imitate the following; that is, change the subject matter, the words and expressions but keep the same sentence structure and the the method of developing the thought.
“In that same village, and in one of these very houses (which, to tell the precise truth was sadly time-worn and weather-beaten), there lived many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple good-natured fellow of the name of Rip Van Winkle” – Washington Irving