Here are seven simple tips I use to make my writing stronger.
- Remove Filler Words: Two needless words abound in most writing: very and that. Almost all occurrences of very need to go. Very adds nothing and often weakens the word that follows it. Many times that needs removal as well. Search and destroy these unneeded filler words.
- Avoid Timid Phrases: Writing “I think…,” I believe…,” “I feel…,” or “It’s my opinion…” all send the message that you’re not sure or aren’t passionate about what you’re saying. Don’t equivocate.
- Simplify Complex Sentences: Look for conjunctions (primarily and, or, and but). These signal a complex sentence that may read better if turned into two shorter ones. While you don’t want to remove all conjunctions, some should probably go.
- Cut Adverbs: Adverbs (most adverbs end with ly) tag along with a verb but often detract from the verb it’s supposed to help. Whenever possible, cut the adverb and let the verb do its own job. If the verb isn’t up to the challenge, search for a stronger one.
- Examine Exclamations: Most writers use too many exclamation points. The purpose of exclamation points isn’t to emphasize the words that precede them but to signal something that is actually exclaimed. Search for exclamation points; most need removing.
- Use Italics Sparingly: Similarly, many writers overuse italics, employing it to emphasize words. This usually signals weak writing. If you need italics to make your point, rework the sentence to make it stronger. Italics are great to add clarity or reduce confusion. Otherwise they probably need to go. The same applies for putting a word in quotes.
- Read it Aloud: Reading your work aloud (or better yet, having someone else read it to you) will point out awkward wording and confusing phrases. This is critical for dialogue.
Applying these seven simple tips will make your writing stronger—they help mine.
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Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.
10 replies on “Seven Simple Tips For Stronger Writing”
“That” is still a struggle for me. “Very” is vanquished since you mentioned it in a critique meeting over a year ago. I need to work on timidity in writing. Thanks Peter. This is helpful and brief. You rock verily, yes.
I am trying to be more aware of that.
In addition to reading it aloud to yourself, have another person read your writing back to you. You’ll get a better feel for how your voice sounds to others, and you may realize what you thought or meant to say isn’t clear enough for your reader.
that is a key!
Prepositional phrases can also make something more complex and confusing than necessary. I look for ways to eliminate them.
Judy, do you have any tips on how to replace them?
Very good, Jerry. Thanks for adding to the discussion.
Well said! Hearing others read it is valuable. I groan every time they trip over a word or phrase or when they change the order of my words, because usually that’s a sign I need to work on something.
Thanks for the great tips. Might you also be interested in providing some help with using/not using colons, commas, and the like?
Tom, that’s a great idea. There are some standard rules that direct a lot of punctuation, but some usage seems to be more art than law, along with different levels of agreement.
I think I’ll leave that to the experts!