Easy Steps for Sharper Writing

Recently, I was asked to edit some abstracts for a large conference. A fun project, and also educational in a way I didn’t expect. It alerted me to some common writing problems and the easy steps that any writer can take to fix them.

1. Overdoing the present participle. What is a present participle? Think “ing” verbs: “Our company is making the most unique product in the world” or “Electric cars are going to become more popular as gas prices increase.” Those sentences sound much more compelling in the simple present and future: “Our company makes the most unique product in the world” or “Electric cars will become more popular as gas prices increase.”

2. Overdoing the adjectives. Consider how many products in the world can make the claim of uniqueness and consider how very little the word “unique” (or “state-of-the-art”) actually explains. Far more striking is a sentence like “Our product reduces CO2 emissions by 50% year after year, more than any other product in the marketplace.”

3. Overdoing the repetition: “If you are worried about the security of your home, contact our experts to learn about the latest in home security products to increase your home’s security.” Repetition may be necessary to clarify information or to increase the SEO of a webpage; but circular sentences like the example waste space and are annoying to read. If the entire phrase “to increase your home’s security” were dropped, the meaning would actually be clearer and the sentence would be strengthened (at least a little).

Those three steps (avoiding the present participle, cutting back on adjectives and rewriting circular sentences) are guaranteed to strengthen and sharpen your writing. At TWP Marketing and Technical Communications, our goal is to make sure that our writing–and your content–means business.