Lately I've been posting some tips to improve your writing, these five are excellent.
1. Avoid cliches like the plague: You can’t omit them altogether — and you shouldn’t try — but take care when recasting a tired word or phrase into something fresh and new. When calling attention to hypocrisy, instead of reciting the cliche “This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black,” you could write, “Keywords: pot, kettle, black.” You can also play with words, referring to an especially distraught drama queen as a trauma queen.
2. Avoid filler phrases: Delete content-free wording like “be that as it may,” “to all intents and purposes,” and “in the final analysis.” These prolix protrusions pop up naturally in speech to bridge a gap between one thought and the next, but although you’re forgiven for including them in a first draft, there’s no excuse for letting them pass inspection when you review your writing or edit someone else’s.
3. Avoid verbosity: Watch for wordy phrases like “in order to,” unnecessary words and phraseslike currently and “that is,” and smothered verbs (constructions in which a noun can be transformed into a verb, such as “offered an indication” when indicate will do.)
4. Avoid redundancies and repetition and saying the same thing twice: Take care to avoid doppleganger words in stock phrases — common, like filler phrases, to spoken language but inimical to good writing — like “actual fact” and “completely finished.”
5. Avoid repetitive sentence structure: Craft your prose in such a way that phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs flow smoothly (avoid a Dick-and-Jane style of writing reminiscent of text in primary-grade reading books) — and consider the visual impact of your writing.
Norm Applegate author of: