Effective Writing


Rule 1

Use concrete rather than vague language.

Vague:
The weather was of an extreme nature on the west coast.

Concrete:
California had very cold weather last week.

Rule 2

Use active voice whenever possible. Active voice means the subject is performing the verb.

Examples:

Active:
Barry hit the ball.

Passive:
The ball was hit.
Notice that the responsible party may not even appear when using passive voice.

Rule 3

Avoid overusing there is, there are, it is, it was, and so on.

Example:
There is a case of meningitis that was reported in the newspaper.

Correction:
A case of meningitis was reported in the newspaper.

Even better:
The newspaper reported a case of meningitis. (Active voice)

Example:
It is important to signal before making a left turn.

Correction:
Signaling before making a left turn is important.
OR
Signaling before a left turn is important.
OR
You should signal before making a left turn.(Active voice)

Example:
There are some revisions which must be made.

Correction:
Some revisions must be made.

Even better:
Please make some revisions. (Active voice)

Rule 4

To avoid confusion, don't use two negatives to make a positive.

Incorrect:
He is not unwilling to help.

Correct:
He is willing to help.

Rule 5

Use similar grammatical form when offering several ideas. This is called parallel construction.

Correct:
You should check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Incorrect:
You should check your spelling, grammar, and punctuating.

Rule 6

If you start a sentence with an action, place the actor immediately after or you will have created the infamous dangling modifier.

Incorrect:
While walking across the street, the bus hit her.

Correct:
While walking across the street, she was hit by a bus.
OR
She was hit by a bus while walking across the street.

Rule 7

Place modifiers near the words they modify.

Incorrect:
I have some pound cake Mollie baked in my lunch bag.

Correct:
In my lunch bag, I have some pound cake that Mollie baked.

Rule 8

A sentence fragment occurs when you have only a phrase or weak clause but are missing a strong clause.

Example of Sentence Fragment:
After the show ended.

Example of Sentence:
After the show ended, we had coffee.

Are you ready for the quiz?