Several columns ago I recommended five techniques to help you
write with clarity, emphasis, and style. Are you ready for
another five? First, a quick review of the original five:
Make every word count.
Don’t waste the reader’s time. Change “due to be fact that” to
“because.” Change “in the event that” to “if.”
Prefer action verbs to nouns.
Verbs add energy to your style. Change “We need to make a change
in our approach” to “We need to change our approach.” Change “He
raised an objection to our policy” to “He objected to our
Adjectives and adverbs often are superfluous. Change “true fact”
to “fact.” Change “refer back” to “refer.”
Trim sentence endings to create
Take advantage of the natural stress point at the ending of a
sentence by trimming excess words. Change “Does it stink like
rotten mean would smell to you?” to “Does it stink like rotten
meat?” Change “Where is the library at?” to “Where is the
Take advantage of opening
Moving a word or phrase forward sometimes creates more emphasis.
Change “I will never again allow this to happen ” to “Never
again will I allow this to happen.” Change “I’m telling you for
the last time I won’t do it” to “For the last time I’m telling
you I won’t do it.”
Now for the next five techniques:
Use parallel structure to write with
Repeating a grammatical structure creates emphasis and sometimes
adds elegance. Change “She was healthy, wealthy, and an athlete”
to “She was healthy, wealthy, and athletic.” Change “It’s better
if you ask what you can do for your country rather than the
reverse” to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what
you can do for your country.”
Add trailing elements.
To create more variety in your sentence structure, add a phrase
or clause after the main part of the sentence. Change “It’s
sunny and warm outside. I think I’ll go swimming” to “It’s sunny
and warm outside, a perfect day for swimming.”
Pause for emphasis.
Pausing mid-sentence gives a sentence shape and personality.
Change “The one thing that motivates me is social justice” to “I
am motivated by one thing: social justice.”
End with the thought you intend to
This arrangement creates greater coherence. Change “There are
two natural stress points in a sentence” to “A sentence contains
two natural stress points.”
Appeal to the senses.
Sensory detail makes writing memorable. Change “The customer was
very dissatisfied with my letter” to “The customer slammed my
letter down on the counter.”
With these new techniques in mind, revise this sentence: “We met
and had a conversation at the designated location, which was a
How about “We met and talked at the designated location: an
office cluttered with cardboard boxes”?
I’m working on a list of 52 techniques of
style. If you would like for me to send you my new tips as I
write them, visit
Free Monthly Tips.