Creative   |   June 27, 2014

3 Easy Ways to Make Your Writing Clearer

A minute read by Grace Loveland

As a Creative Writing major, I often get asked what I am going to do with such a  degree. Frankly, I can do a lot. Many businesses are in need of employees who  can write well, and many colleges and universities are no longer emphasizing  these programs. This is my second summer internship with the Swarm Agency, and  I have come to be rather judgmental of businesses that don’t seem to put as  much care into their copy writing and editing processes. Of course, not all  readers are as pretentious as I, but there are many ways people who don’t want  to spend too much time on writing can make their writing clearer.

 

My Tips for Writers

       
    1. If the thesaurus is your  friend, the dictionary should be your life partner: Most writers I know always  have a dictionary of some sort right by their notebook or on their computer.  Probably 95% of the words I look up are words I know—I just want to make sure  they are the perfect words. Sometimes, redundancy in writing is acceptable  (even beneficial), but other times you want to mix up word choices. One of the  most common errors I see is when people look up a word in a thesaurus and don’t  double-check it in the dictionary.

Example: If you look up “clear” in the thesaurus, you  will find words like “unconcealed”. If I wanted to tell you to make a sentence  “unconcealed”, it would technically make sense to you, but looking it up in the  dictionary, I would find “(esp.  of an emotion) not concealed; obvious.” That probably is not the best word  choice.

       
    1. Know the difference between  “countables” and “not countables”: One error I see a lot is “we have a large  amount of clients,” or “we have less customers than last year.” This drives me  crazy as a writer. If you can count something, you want to use words like  “fewer”, “number”, and “many”. If you can’t count something, you want to use  words like “less”, “amount”, and “much”. The best tester I tell people is to  use the noun “water”. You have a large amount of water, not a large number or  water, and that is what sounds right. Memorizing this rule takes some people a  while, but they are always grateful once they have.

Examples:

        “We have  a large number of clients this year,”

vs.

      “We have a huge amount of work to get  done.”

 

       “There  are fewer mistakes in this blog,”

vs.

      “There is less content in this blog.”

 

       “There  is much fun to be had when learning grammar,”

vs.

      “There are many grammar rules  to learn.”




       
    1. Ban the Comma Splice: Americans writers love  commas. And commas are great a lot of the time—they make your writing clear and  break up longer sentences. However, you should never, ever use a comma to join  two independent clauses without a conjunction. If the two parts of the sentence  could each work as their own sentence, use either a semicolon or (my favorite)  an em dash.

Examples:

       “We love to write lots of copy, it makes us  feel accomplished.” (NO)

 

        “We love  to write a lot of copy, because it makes us feel accomplished.” (OK)

 

        “We love  to write a lot of copy; it makes us feel accomplished.” (OK)

 

       

 

      As  always, when writing something for an audience, you should be open to criticism  and feedback. No one writes perfectly all the time. This blog will probably get  a lot of notes before it gets to you.

 

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