Communication is becoming an increasingly important aspect of life in the 21st century. To be an effective communicator, writing skills are a must, whether you are writing an email, a text message or preparing a corporate presentation. However, it takes time to become an effective communicator and writer. Fortunately, you can improve your writing now, without spending days or even weeks on laborious writing drills.
Brevity and Simplicity
Brevity and simplicity are the two basic qualities of clear writing, according to Paula LaRocque, the author of “Championship Writing: 50 Ways to Improve Your Writing.” Accordingly, write in simple and easy-to-read sentences. To improve clarity, focus on the most interesting aspect of your subject matter. Also, begin your writing with general statements, providing further details in later paragraphs.
“That” or “Which”
A common problem with many sloppy sentences is the abuse of the “which” conjunction, according to an article by Jody Gilbert published on TechRepublic.com. To improve the “flow” of your writing, use conjunction “that” instead of “which” if the clause — the information following the conjunction — is essential and without it the sentence would not convey the intended meaning. For example, “The plane, which was to take off at 2 p.m., was delayed” would better read as “The plane that was to take off at 2 p.m. was delayed.” Always use commas to separate a non-essential clause beginning with “which.”
Wordiness is one of the chief enemies of a well-written text because it makes the writing appear unprofessional and distracts the reader. Common examples of wordy phrases include “make an effort” instead of “try,” “located at” instead of “at,” nodded his head” instead of “nodded” and “equally as good” instead of “equally good.”
Active writing means giving preference to active voice over passive voice. It requires the writer to eliminate “weak” words like “can,” “may” and “should,” going straight to the point instead. For example, “You should write in active voice,” reads better as, “Write in active voice.”
Referring to Organizations
While a company or an organization may consist of many people, referring to it as “they” is incorrect. To most people a collective group is still a single entity. Refer to a company as “they” when you are explicitly writing about the company’s employees.
“That” or “Who”
Use “who” when referring to people. For example, “Mr. Jones is the manager that promoted me” should read “Mr. Jones is the manager who promoted me.”
Cliches come in three forms, according to Paula LaRocque. The first group includes indispensable cliches, or phrases, that are difficult to replace with conventional words with the same level of eloquence. An example would be “slept like a log.” Acceptable cliches are those that are easily recognizable yet are not easily predictable — for example, opening “a Pandora’s briefcase” when writing about lawyers. Avoid “fad-speak” and unoriginal cliches such as “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist” and “He is history.”
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