Improve your writing skills

1. Better verb and noun choice

Replace various verbs and nouns for more advanced and fitting alternatives. There are endless possibilities.  Replace «big»  with gargantuan, leviathan or colossal. There are hundreds of words we can use to describe the five senses. How about describing sight, sound, smell, taste or touch.

2. How to write numbers

Please note this topic has several variations and consistencies depending on the literature organization or body expressing it. Here are rules we like to follow:

a. Spell out numbers from one to ten in a word form. After this use numerals until a million. Then use 1 million, 2 million, 3 trillion and so on.

b. With mixed fractions i like to write out. Ex:  3 1/2 percent inflation.
Three and one-half percent inflation.

c. When requiring less than a dollar use «forty cent» and not $0.40.

d. A common number expression is decades:
The ’90s era OR The 90’s era.
During the 1970s. During the 1980s.

e. Long numbers can be written. Ex:  
Seven thousand three hundred forty-eight dollars and nine cent.

f. When the factual number is so important use:
The gentleman is 44 (forty-four) years old.
The gentleman is forty-four (44) years old.

g. Spell out at the beginning of sentences.
Nineteen eighty-four was a dystopian science fiction movie. Hyphenate all numbers from twenty-one through to ninety-nine.

h. Use a comma to separate thousands and a full stop for decimals. Ex:  7,9386,297.85

i. When taking time, noon and midnight are easier to understand than numbers of 12.00 am and 12.00 pm. Writing out the time is common.  Ex: I shall meet my friend at nine twenty-three. 

3. Reducing adverbs by using stronger verbs

Adverbs modify verbs especially action verbs. Many times we can use a powerful verb than makes the adverb redundant. Ex: closely  completely  currently  deeply  easily  entirely rarely  regularly quickly  suddenly undoubtedly

She knocked loudly on the door. She thumped on the door.
He spoke softly to the dentist. He whispered to the dentist.
They are extremely happy. They are ecstatic. 

4. Very

The common word “very” plus an adjective can be replaced with a single word.
She is very happy. She’s delighted.
The very cold winter. The frosty winter.
They are very bad men. The barbarous men.

 

5. Describe movement in your writing

Using action verbs that connect your story and characters to the world.

The football players centered around the goal keeper.   Uninteresting. 
The football players jostled around the goal keeper.      Shows action.
The celebrity press photographers jostled for the ultimate viewpoint. Shows action.

to jostle (jostling) – the act of shoving which is forcing your way by pushing someone or something.

6. Vary sentence length 

Vary the length of your sentences. This creates contrast and breaks up the reading rhythm. Sentences that are too long can be difficult to remember or even understand. Short sentences in sequence are dull and have no punch.

7. Adding relevant information 

Check that your stories flows in that you have not left out any vital information as the script evolves. The reader needs to know why something happened, so connection is needed between sentences and paragraphs. Don’t jump scenes. Ex: a character suddenly has a knife in their hands without showing where it came from.

8. Remove irrelevant information 

Don’t repeat the same information by using other words or phrases if the first example is clear.
At eighteen years old, George was finally leaving his parents house for life in the big city. 
That last morning at the breakfast table was tough for all the family. (last is not needed).

9. Avoid using phrases containing «fact» 

“In fact”, “as a matter of fact” “the fact is”.
It does not add any interest to your writing. Just clutter.
a) The fact is many people find their jobs mundane.
b) Many find their professions mundane.

10. Don’t repeat words

Re-read you article looking for words that have been repeated and use appropriate alternatives and synonyms. Some words can be more difficult to find replacements. Ex: «Sustainable». In this case, replace with a two word combination.

11. Avoiding redundant phrases and words

They heard the sound of the plane soaring overhead. The word «sound» can be deleted.
They heard the plane soaring overhead. 

 

12. Avoid negative sentences. No and Not

Negative sentences are often confusing or require more effort to understand the message.These words are «no» and «not«. 
a) I will not spend any more money this month unless I have to.
b) I will only spend more money this month if necessary.

13. Avoiding words that say nothing

a) Adverbs that say nothing. Literally and Virtually. Don’t bother with them.
I have virtually run out of money after the holiday.

b) The use of “just” in a sentence will often not effect the sentence meaning if removed. 
I just barely managed to pass my driving test. I’m just terrible at examinations.

c) It is possible to remove the article «the«, when talking about a group.
The dogs are everyone’s best friend.
The Dutch people are tall.

d) The words «that» and «then» are all too common. Read your sentence and review if either can be omitted. Avoid starting sentences with then. It’s cumbersome. 

e) These three words, really, often, a lot,  just don’t compliment writing.  
I really like visiting grandmother. How much do you like visiting her, quantify it?  I adore visiting grandmother.

f) Use caution with «believe» and «think«. This keeps ideas and data floating in the air which doesn’t keep the reader interested. People thrive on facts especially when writing newspaper opinion pieces.

14. Fine tuning sentence structure

a) When describing details review the script to see if too much has been added. Remember you write to engage the reader, not bore them. As with all script, ask yourself. «Can i reduce but still keep a strong meaning»?

b) Excessive adjectives.  Review your use of adjectives. Are there too many or two negative or two positive adjectives in sequence when only one is necessary?
The huge and obese man decided to take up running.

A keep fit runner

15. Joining smaller sentences into one with the same subject

Some medium sized sentences can be united into one when they share the same subject.

a) The taxi driver rushed to the hospital. His wife was about to give birth.
b) The taxi driver, whose wife was about to give birth, rushed to the hospital.

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