Make Your Writing Clearer!

Make Your Writing Clearer!

Do you want to make your writing pack a punch?

Well, that’s one way to do it right there, by using common expressions or idioms. Of course, as with all writing tips, you must aim to use methods and styles that suit the specific purpose of writing and your audience.

I will go into more idioms in other blogs and videos.

Here are two methods that are always useful in making your writing clearer.

Use specific words over general words

Which of these sentences better describes the picture?

The young man sits on a rock looking.

The slender young man sits comfortably on a smooth rock peering at lush vegetation by amber lamplight.

I hope you chose the second sentence!

Here are a few more examples.

The leader addressed the crowd about environmental challenges.

The president addressed the crowd about air pollution and climate change.

They need to hire an individual with cooking experience.

The manager of Hile’s restaurant needs to hire an experienced chef.

Avoid the use of nouns such as thing, factor, and individual. These are very imprecise.

A career in the health care industry offers many things.

A career in the health care industry offers many rewards.

There will be times in which a more general word is necessary or better, but always re-read your work to see if there are instances in which a more specific word would clarify your meaning. 

Avoiding the use of overworked words is similar. If you want your writing to be lively, you should try to use adjectives and adverbs that have connotations closest in meaning to your intention. Again, there are times when you might still use words like tall, long, and big, but there are so many better adjectives you could choose.

Using a thesaurus can help you find just the right word for a particular situation. Be careful, however, that you chose a word with the proper connotation. Synonyms are not all equal!

For example, if you want to change the following sentence, there are many choices, but they are not all equivalent despite all being synonyms of the word skinny.

The new director is skinny.

The new director is scrawny. (Very thin)

The new director is gaunt.        (Possibly ill)

The new director is malnourished. (Lacking food)

Use the active voice over the passive voice

The active voice makes your sentences more vivid and lively. While the passive voice does have its uses, it should be used sparingly.

In the active voice, the subject is doing the action. In the passive voice, the subject is the receiver of the action.

Passive:      The water pump was destroyed by a lightning strike.

Active:       A lightning strike destroyed the water pump.

Passive:      The hardwood deck was built by Justin.

Active:       Justin built the hardwood deck.

Passive:     Five hundred dollars was donated to the food bank by Jennifer.

Active:       Jennifer donated five hundred dollars to the food bank.

The active voice is more concise and more powerful.

As with nouns, adjectives, or adverbs, choosing the most suitable verb can make all the difference as well. Not all verbs are created equal. Try to avoid general or overworked verbs for something that describes the situation more specifically.

The old man walked up the steep hill.

The old man struggled up the steep hill.

The old man strode up the steep hill.

Not only do readers have a clearer picture in their mind when reading more precise verbs, but they also have a more accurate understanding of your meaning.

During your proofreading, take a moment to think about your word choice. The words you use will vary depending on the type of course, writing assignment, and audience. Still, no matter what the writing task, there are ways to improve the clarity of your sentences by choosing words carefully and using the active voice.

This week's video:

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