How to Improve Your Writing Style

I have two words that, if taken to heart, will most improve your writing style:
  1. edit
  2. proofreader

Edit every paper at least twice more after the first draft. Then get someone to proofread it. Always.




What? You want more than those two gems? OK...



3. Transitions, transitions, transitions

Don’t leave your reader behind. Always find words to signal to them where your argument is going and why.


4. Use active verbs rather than passive ones.

“John hit him” is more clear than “He was hit by John”.


5. Avoid adverbs because they're usually redundant.

“He clenched his teeth tightly” says nothing more than “He clenched his teeth.”


6. Avoid adjectives unless they reveal something new and important.
An “old gnarled oak” is probably just decoration, whereas “He looked at the gray sky and black clouds and decided to sail back to the harbour” actually reveals information helpful to the reader.







Additional Resources:

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Elements of Style by Strunk & E.B. White

It was published in 1918 but is still one of the all-time classics on writing style. There’s a reason. Get it and read it. It’s small and you’ll read it in a single cross-town bus trip, and it will be well worth it.