8 simple tips to help you write better!
Writing can be a daunting task for many people, but by following some simple tips that I have outlined below, it can become a lot easier. The key thing to remember is that writing is all about communicating your message in the most effective way possible so that it can be understood. Think about who you are writing to (your readers) and why. That should determine whether you should be using formal or informal English and any jargon – special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand. If your readers will not be able to understand them, then do not use them. This is also the case for using high language or big words, the ones that sound impressive, but which would baffle many people and have them scratching their heads trying to figure out their meanings. From teaching writing courses at Immerse, I have learned that many students are taught at local schools to use such words to demonstrate their extensive vocabulary. However, in most cases these high-level words are used incorrectly or unnaturally. Therefore, be careful with your choice of words! Think before you write and try following these 8 simple tips:
A. Use Personal Pronouns
Personal pronouns can dramatically improve the clarity of your writing. The reasons why are as follows:
- Personal pronouns aid your reader’s comprehension because they clarify what applies to your reader and what applies to you. Try to call the reader ‘you’ and your organization ‘we’. Think of it as if you were speaking to someone sitting across a desk from you.
- They allow you to ‘speak’ directly to your reader, creating an appealing tone that will keep your reader reading.
- They help you to avoid abstractions and to use more concrete and everyday language.
- They keep your sentences short.
- First- and second-person pronouns aren’t gender-specific, allowing you to avoid the ‘he or she’ dilemma. The pronouns to use are first- person plural (we, us, our/ours) and second-person singular (you, your/yours). For example:‘
You must send us….’ ‘’
‘We will tell you before we…..’
‘You can get advice from your….’
Before : This Summary does not purport to be complete and is qualified in its entirety by the more detailed information contained in the Proxy Statement and the Appendices hereto, all of which should be carefully reviewed.
After : Because this is a summary, it does not contain all the information that may be important to you. You should read the entire proxy statement and its appendices carefully before you decide how to vote.
B. Write in the Positive
Positive sentences are shorter and easier to understand than their negative counterparts. For example:
Before : Persons other than residents may not use the clubhouse.
After : Only residents may use the clubhouse.
Your sentences will be shorter and easier to understand if you replace a negative phrase with a single word that means the same thing.
C. Replace negative phrases with a single word
In many situations, your sentences will be shorter and easier to understand if you replace a negative phrase with a single word that means the same thing.
Before : They do not have the necessary resources.
After : They lack the necessary resources.
D. Think About Your Sentence Structure
- Keep the subject, verb, and object close together – toward the beginning of a sentence.
- Short, simple sentences enhance the effectiveness of short, common words. Try to keep your average sentence length to about 20 words. Variety is the key. Mix short sentences with longer ones. Try to keep to one main idea in a sentence, plus perhaps one other related point.
- Introduce each new paragraph with a topic sentence.
- Refer to people and companies by name.
- Prefer numerals to words to denote amounts.
- Avoid ‘shall’ where possible.
To be clear, sentences must have a sound structure. Here are two ways to ensure yours do:
1) The natural word order of English speakers is subject-verb-object
Your sentences will be clearer if you follow this order as closely as possible.
subject — verb — object:
Sam kicked the ball
2) Parallel structure
Keep your sentence structure parallel. A long sentence often fails without a parallel structure. Parallelism simply means ensuring a list or series of items is presented using parallel parts of speech, such as nouns or verbs. This is how we naturally think and speak, so a good tip is to read your text out loud because any unparallel constructions will become obvious. It is also a good way to check for any typos. For example:
Sam kicked the ball and scored a goal!
Sam kicked the ball and scoring a goal!
They are planning to open a new office and (to) hire new people.
They are planning to open a new office and will hire new people.
E. Don’t be Afraid to Give Instruction
People often fear using commands (imperatives) because they think they are too direct or sound too harsh. But this problem can be solved by putting ‘please’ in front.
I would be grateful if you could send it to me. –> Please could you send it to me.
They should be separated where possible. –> Separate where possible.
The contents should be removed from the box. –> Remove the contents from the box.
F. Use Lists Where Appropriate
Lists are excellent for splitting up information, making the information easier to read and interpret. There are two types of lists:
- A list that is a continuous sentence with several listed points picked out at the beginning, middle or end.
- A list of separate points with an introductory statement.
If each point is a complete sentence, start with a capital letter and end with a full stop, as above. With a list that is part of a continuous sentence, put semicolons (;) after each point and start each with a lower-case letter.
You can apply if:
– you are over 25;
– you have 3 years work experience; and
– you hold a valid UK driving license.
For a list of short points you can choose one of the following:
You will need to take the following. You will need to take:
– A pen – a pen
– A ruler – a ruler
– A calculator – a calculator
You should use bullet points in lists. They are better than numbers or letters as they draw your attention to each point without giving extra information to take in.
G. Don’t write to impress, write to express
- Choose words that are appropriate for you readers. As mentioned previously, there is no point in choosing ‘big’ words to show off, especially when your readers may have no idea what they mean. Your reader could well become frustrated when they become aware that there is a more natural, simple alternative.
- Choose short words over long words.
H. When writing, imagine you are talking to your reader
Write personally, sincerely, in a style that is suitable and with the right tone of voice.
These 8 tips should help you write better. They may appear simple, but writing is not always easy for some people, especially when it comes to getting the tone right. Simple mistakes in a second language can often be made that send the wrong message, causing misunderstandings and even offence. Therefore, if you are looking for a good writing course to avoid these types of problems, contact us to find out how we can tailor a course to suit your specific needs. We have designed creative writing programs for children, writing programs for IELTS, HKDSE, primary 1-5, and the workplace.