Readings

Seven Tips for Reader-Friendly Writing

Below are guidelines for fine-tuning your writing. Each rule is followed by a sample sentence that needs revision.

  1. Use active verbs whenever possible.

    Not: The data are indicative of the problem.

    But:

  2. Keep subjects and verbs as close together as possible.

    Not: Dr. Simmons, because she was concerned about safety, recommended additional supervision of the pediatric ward.

    But:

  3. Place each modifier next to the word or phrase it modifies.

    Not: Other issues were considered at the final stages of the planning meeting of lesser importance.

    But:

  4. Avoid long sentences.

    Not: Social Entrepreneurship is the adoption of a market-driven mindset by a not-for-profit organization in order to balance the need for fiscal responsibility and sustainability while maximizing its social impact through the pursuit of earned income opportunities as part of an overall revenue strategy.

    But:

  5. Use explicit transitions for readers’ ease of movement.

    Not: Companies wanting to attract new clients to the area are concerned by the rising crime rates. Car break-ins have increased by 20% in the last two years.

    But:

  6. Eliminate wordiness.

  • Avoid descriptions of your thought process.

Not: When I first broached this subject, I expected to be supportive of the new approach outlined in this report. However, the more I studied the situation, the more I saw how profoundly flawed the proposed policy is.

But:

  • Be concise and modern; use simple language.

Not: Many of the top tier universities have come to the considered opinion that the continuous tuition increases over the last ten years are not going to be able to continue because of strong resistance from many Americans to the soaring price of higher education.

But:

  • Avoid redundancies

Not: Each and every operator must participate in the new training program before they operate the equipment.

But:

  • Avoid “There is/are…”; “It is…” constructions

Not: It is common knowledge that it has been shown that it is bad economic policy for the federal government to run a large deficit.

But:

  1. Learn and use the conventions for incorporating numbers into text.
  • Do not begin a sentence with a numeral.

Not: 60% of water treatment plants in rural Saskatchewan are operating inefficiently.

But:

  • With the exception of statistical data (ages, addresses, dates, measurements, page numbers, scores, ratios), spell out all numerals under eleven that are embedded in text.
  • Use the numerical form for numbers above ten.

Not: The proposed changes to the federal retirement policies will take place in three stages over 5 years.

But:

  • Appropriately punctuate numerals and numeral-word combinations (when numerals are used as modifiers).

Not: The new building will have as its centerpiece a two thousand square foot granite atrium.

But: