Here are seven simple tips I use to make my writing stronger.
- Remove Filler Words: Two needless words abound in most writing: very and that. Almost all occurrences of very need to go. Very adds nothing and often weakens the word that follows it. Many times that needs removal as well. Search and destroy these unneeded filler words.
- Avoid Timid Phrases: Writing “I think…,” I believe…,” “I feel…,” or “It’s my opinion…” all send the message that you’re not sure or aren’t passionate about what you’re saying. Don’t equivocate.
- Simplify Complex Sentences: Look for conjunctions (primarily and, or, and but). These signal a complex sentence that may read better if turned into two shorter ones. While you don’t want to remove all conjunctions, some should probably go.
- Cut Adverbs: Adverbs (most adverbs end with ly) tag along with a verb but often detract from the verb it’s supposed to help. Whenever possible, cut the adverb and let the verb do its own job. If the verb isn’t up to the challenge, search for a stronger one.
- Examine Exclamations: Most writers use too many exclamation points. The purpose of exclamation points isn’t to emphasize the words that precede them but to signal something that is actually exclaimed. Search for exclamation points; most need removing.
- Use Italics Sparingly: Similarly, many writers overuse italics, employing it to emphasize words. This usually signals weak writing. If you need italics to make your point, rework the sentence to make it stronger. Italics are great to add clarity or reduce confusion. Otherwise they probably need to go. The same applies for putting a word in quotes.
- Read it Aloud: Reading your work aloud (or better yet, having someone else read it to you) will point out awkward wording and confusing phrases. This is critical for dialogue.
Applying these seven simple tips will make your writing stronger—they help mine.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.