Quick Writer's Workshop


1. Less is more. Too many words obscure meaning. Use 25 words per sentence or less.
Get rid of as many words as possible when editing, while still conveying the meaning and mood you desire.

2. Put only one message in a single sentence. Avoid disrupting your sentences with thought-stopping gaps.
Instead write an additional sentence or recast your sentence.

3. Use transitions when returning to main ideas to smooth out choppiness.

4. Appeal to the senses. Good writing uses concrete images the reader can see in the mind's eye.
Avoid abstractions and Latin-based words like minimize and integrate.
Instead favor Anglo-Saxon words like table, hammer and hut.
Paint word pictures and use sensory details that put readers into the picture.

5. Be specific rather than vague in your details and description. A bee is a stronger image than an  insect.

6. Hammer home your point with the powerful, versatile verb. Strong verbs are a hallmark of good writing.

7. Use an active voice. An active voice uses the subject-verb-object sentence structure.  
An active voice has greater clarity, movement, and is more concise than passive voice.

    A. Corrollary: Avoid the passive voice. The passive voice uses the object-verb-subject sentence structure.
    Passive structure introduces weak or passive verbs. Use passive be verbs sparingly (e.g. being, are, is). 

    B. Exceptions allowed. For variety or emphasis  reverse the active sentence form.
    In other words, it's okay to use the passive voice occasionally.

8. Make sure verb tense matches the noun doing the action. Be careful with collective nouns.
The noun "verb tense" in this tip, for example, is a collective noun and takes a plural verb.

9. When information is complex or statistical in nature put it in a chart or table.

10. To create polished prose the writer needs to:

    a) understand the goals and interests of the audience;
    b) have a clear purpose;
    c)  perform solid research; and
    d) be willing to revise, revise, and revise a little more.

    Polished prose emerges through revising several drafts.


Prepared by Jennifer Harrison. Portions adapted from Mightier than the Sword by C. Edward Good.

rev. 2/21/04