Three editing tips that improve your writing

You should bear in mind three key points if you want your written correspondences and texts to be professional and clear.  These three points are crucial for improving the quality and readability of your work.

  1. Make Sure You Check All Your Commas

Punctuation is sometimes disregarded which is a grave mistake because correct punctuation is vital if you want your work to be taken seriously.  The humble comma can be a little confusing for even the most experienced writers.  This punctuation mark has numerous uses and rules but the most helpful rule concerning its use is to refrain from using a comma if it is better to have two sentences separated by a full stop.  This will give your writing a lot more weight and make your reader sit up and take notice.  So be daring.  End that sentence.  Don’t use commas unnecessarily.

If you heed this rule, your writing will be much clearer to read and you will prevent run-on sentences.

  1. Make Your Sentence Structure Simpler

Simplifying your sentences makes them more powerful.  Knowing what makes a good sentence structure requires some grammar knowledge.  As we all know, sentences contain nouns and verbs as well as adjectives and adverbs.  Here is an example of a sentence using nouns and a verb:

“The boy ran to the shops.”

There are three parts to this sentence construction.  The most important is the action word, the verb, “ran”.  The other two parts of the sentence are nouns, “boy” and “shops”.  The “boy” is the subject, the thing carrying out the action, and “shops” is the object, the thing being acted upon.  So, the structure of this sentence is noun, verb and noun.

An easy way to understand if a sentence is active (rather than passive) and strong is to see whether or not it clearly answers the following questions in terms of its structure:

  • What is being done/carried out?
  • What/who is doing it?
  • What/who is it being done to?

Occasionally, you will find that using additional words other than the three parts explained above will diminish the strength and effect of the sentence.

  1. Activate All Your Verbs

Another way to enhance the quality of your writing is to use the imperative form of a verb (to be, to walk, to sleep, and so on) rather than the gerund form, which has the suffix “-ing” (being, walking, sleeping, and so forth).  This is because the “ing” form of the verb can be a sign of a clumsy or weak sentence.   A verb’s imperative form is its un-conjugated form.  If we use the verb “to dance” (imperative form) as an example, we see that it can be conjugated into “dances”, “danced” and “will dance”, depending on the tense.  Using the gerund form of the verb (“dancing”) makes less of a statement in your writing.  Note that “dancing” is also a noun, as in ballroom dancing, break dancing etc. Let us see another example:

“The woman went to the doctor requesting medicine.”

“The woman went to the doctor to request medicine.”

While there is nothing incorrect with the first sentence, using the gerund form of “to request” has weakened its effect.  That is why the second sentence is stronger in structure – it uses the imperative form of the verb.

These three simple rules will help you improve the quality of your writing, but don’t forget to also check for spelling errors and unnecessary word repetitions!

Kay Hutchings-Olsson of KJ Language Services

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