E-EDITOR’s Top Ten Tips

It doesn’t take much to improve the quality of most business writing. Just muttering "shorter, clearer, stronger" in each editor's ear twice a day will take you a surprisingly long way.

This down-to-earth “how-to” guide for editors and writers will take you a long way in the right direction.

  1. Know who your readers are.
    Consumers or businesses, sales or engineering, office-based or customer-facing — who are these people you’re talking to?

  2. Think about how long they’ve got.
    If they’re looking for quick bullet points, don’t swamp them with pages of prose.

  3. Vary the words you use.
    If you have things you must say more than once, change the wording or turn the sentence round.

  4. Weed out your spare adjectives.
    Try removing all purely descriptive words. Put them back one at a time, but only on merit.

  5. Choose vigorous, vivid verbs.
    It’s the words of movement and action that pack life and energy into your writing.

  6. Be active, not passive.
    “People write letters” is clearer, shorter and stronger than “Letters are written by people.”

  7. Shorten your sentences.
    The full stop or full point is the most powerful stylistic tool in English. Use it. Often.

  8. Break it up and lose the grey.
    Use headings, paragraphs and bulleted lists to let light into the text. Give people headlines they can scan.

  9. Stick to your house style.
    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” said Emerson. Have as few rules as possible, but enforce them.

  10. Keep a dictionary within reach.
    Use it several times a day and try to develop a nose for words you might get wrong.

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