Advanced General Writing Tips

Goals: Simple, Direct, Precise, Alive, Concise, Coherent, Convincing

1. Reduce Sentence Length to establish strong, clear meaning.

2. Order Words for Emphasis.

Þ Put strong words at the beginning and at the end of a sentence.

Þ Space out key words. Do not repeat a distinctive word unless you intend a specific effect.

Þ Put odd and interesting things next to each other. Help the reader learn from contrast.

Þ Do not be afraid of using small words. Big words are not always the best or most useful for getting your points across to the reader.

3. Avoid Needless Words or Stuffy Language.

Þ No excess prepositional phrases

Þ Use words instead of phrases

Þ No redundancy; minimize repetition

Þ Watch for unnecessary adverbs such as very, really, quickly

Þ No vague qualifiers, e.g. some, kind; avoid “it is”, “whether or not”...

4. Use Strong Verbs. Use passive verbs to highlight the receiver of an action.

5. Emphasize Results, Concrete Figures. Use concrete and specific details that appeal to the senses.

6. Establish Impressive Overall Style.

Þ Form a pattern in your writing, but then give it a twrist to add variety.

Þ Vary sentence length to set a compelling pace for the reader.


· Convey clear, complete thoughts.

Þ Do not couch too many ideas in one sentence.

· Choose every word carefully.

Þ Make sure they are precise and most appropriate for the context.

· Minimize redundancy. Strive for effectiveness.


1. Do Your Homework

Þ Work from a plan and outline your key points.

Þ Build your work around a key question. Each part of the piece must contribute to answering this question.

Þ Break long writing projects into parts. Then assemble the pieces into something whole.

2. Know Your Audience

3. Adjust Your Tone

4. Be Skillful with Language

5. Proof Read

Þ Let it sit.

Þ Read it aloud.

Þ Exchange it with a colleague or friend.

Þ Read it backwards, from bottom to top.

Þ Use dictionaries and style manuals.

Þ Pay attention to case, punctuation, plural/singular, use of articles and prepositions.

Þ Revise thoroughly. Check for both form and content.

Þ Make it perfect.

5. Be Reflective.

Þ Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Þ To sharpen your learning, write about your writing.

Þ Become more engaged in writing by seeking out resources that will help you improve.

Þ Create a support group which can offer you feedback.

Þ Learn from your critics. Do not take criticism personally. Instead use it to your advantage and learn from it.

Þ Own your own toolbox.

Learn From Others

1. Article Length

2. Overall Style

Þ Formal or informal?

Þ Any personal notes and open friendly language, or the writing sounds official?

Þ Get right to the point or ramble?

3. Syntax

Þ The arrangement of words and sentences and ideas

4. Vocabulary

Þ What types of words does the writer use? Long and somewhat obscure, or short and easily understood?

Þ Do certain words appear over and over?

5. Sentence Length

Þ Are the sentences long and flowery or short and to the point?

Þ Does sentence length vary or not?

6. Paragraph Length

1. Prepare notes and research before you begin the process of writing.

2. Vary the lengths of paragraphs.

3. Let punctuation control pace and space.

4. Foreshadow powerful conclusions or stunning events by planting important clues early.

5. Purposeful repetition creates unexpected results while linking various parts of writing together.

6. Don’t waste a syllable in short pieces of writing. Keep it polished.

Last, but not the least:

Learn the difference between reports and stories. A report renders information, a story renders experience.

When writing about a person, show characteristics through scenes, details and dialogue.

Build suspense. Suspense will keep readers interested.

Mix narrative modes to sustain readers’ attention.