How to Improve Writing Style
Many would argue that writing style is very personal and varies from author to author. After all, who wants to read everything in the style of, say, Hemingway? However, writing style is not just subjective. Indeed, good writing style does have objective rules to follow. Here are the key rules of writing style, written with tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek examples. Explaining the humor will help your students understand the writing style concept and/or rule.
1. Avoid intentional fragments. Right?
2. Avoid formulaic phrases in this present day and age.
3. I have shown that you should delete references to your own writing.
4. Be sort of, kind of specific.
5. Don’t define terms (where a specialized word is used) using “reason is,” “because,” “where,” or “when” because this writing style is boring.
6. Avoid using very interesting, super nice words that contribute little to a sentence.
7. Prepositions are not good to end sentences with.
8. It is a mistake to ever split an infinitive.
9. But do not start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.
10. Avoid using clichés like a bad hair day.
11. Always, avoid attention-getting alliteration.
12. Parenthetical remarks should (most always) be avoided.
13. Also, never, never repeat words or phrases very, very much, too.
14. Use words only as they are defined, no matter how awesome they are.
15. Even if a metaphor hits the spot, it can be over-played.
16. Resist exaggeration; it only works once in a million years.
17. Writers should always avoid generalizations.
18. Avoid using big words when more utilitarian words will suffice.
19. What use are rhetorical questions?
20. The passive voice is a form to be avoided, if it can be at all helped.
21. Never write no double negatives.
22. There are good reasons to avoid starting every sentence with There.
23. Always, absolutely avoid overstating ideas.
24. Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear.
Also, check out Mark Pennington’s articles on writing unity, coherence, and parallelism.
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