1. WORD CHOICE: Diction
Make every word count / avoid wordiness
(write during rather than during the course of, and
until rather than until such time as).
Avoid unnecessary modifiers
(write fact rather than true fact,
and gift rather than free gift).
natural language as opposed to needlessly
formal, fancy, or awkward language (as in As we discussed
rather than As per our discussion, and We need to start on
time rather than It is imperative that we commence in a timely
words for their sound, mood, and feeling
(their connotation) as well as their literal meaning (their
words that appeal to the five senses.
action verbs over the noun forms of verbs or nominalizations
(write recommend rather than make a recommendation, and
consider rather than take under consideration).
on a broad vocabulary to use the most
precise, appropriate words for your meaning and audience (often the
simplest, not the fanciest, word).
2. SELECTION OF
vivid, colorful, unusual, and surprising detail
that appeals to the senses.
factual detail that appeals to logic.
the concrete and the particular over the
abstract and the general.
references and quotations to reinforce your
point and support your argument.
3. SENTENCE STRUCTURE:
Variety in length, structure, rhythm, and type
your sentence structure to create emphasis
subordinate elements to indicate
relationships, control emphasis, and create variety.
punctuation to create pauses and emphasis:
dashes to create abrupt pauses and emphasis.
colons to create pauses and anticipation.
semicolons to suggest a close relationship
between two statements.
important words at sentence endings for “VIP
sentence inversions (anastrophe) for variety
ellipses (. . .) for economy and cadence.
repetition for emphasis and rhythm:
words in sentence beginnings (anaphora).
a succession of short sentences.
a short, punchy sentence after a longer, more complex sentence
for variety and emphasis.
sentence fragments for a conversational
style and for emphasis.
all four rhetorical sentence types:
loose sentences (those in which subordinate
elements follow the main clause) for a relaxed structure.
periodic sentences (those in which
subordinate elements precede the main clause) for emphasis,
expectancy, and flourish.
balanced sentences (those which contain
parallel elements–also called coordinated and parallel
sentences) for emphasis and rhythm.
antithetical sentences (those with
contrasting elements, often in parallel structure) for emphasis and
4. CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION: Comparison, Analogy, and Metaphor
figurative (or non-literal) language to
appeal to your reader’s creativity and imagination.
comparisons and analogies to clarify or
reinforce your meaning.
metaphors to point out similarity between
similes (comparisons using like or
as) for a more conscious, calculated effect (He works like a
horse); use metaphors (comparisons not using like or as)
for a more insistent, surprising effect (He
is a horse).
unlikely comparisons to surprise your reader
and convey your originality.
your similes and metaphors on the basis of
their aptness, novelty, and simplicity.
5. POINT OF VIEW: Tone, Attitude, and
a definite point of view to let your reader
know where you stand.
a persona (or create an image of yourself)
that is engaging, interesting, mysterious, intriguing, lively,
irreverent, studious, or off-beat.
playful or use a light-hearted tone to
appeal to your reader’s sense of humor and intelligence.
wit (from the Old English witan, “to
know”) to create a comic twist or surprise, as Peter De Vries did when
he said, “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the
puns (plays on words) advisedly–not everyone
situational irony to convey the disparity
between perception and reality.
verbal irony (Socratic irony)–which often
involves saying the opposite of what you mean–to convey the disparity
between literal and implied meaning.
understatement (meiosis) for a more subtle
style of humor.
overstatement (exaggeration or hyperbole)
for a more outlandish style of humor.
self-deprecating humor to poke fun at
ridicule and sarcasm to disparage or make
fun of others (but consider the ethical implications of doing so).