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Bill Bennett

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Clear and simple writing is best

Good writing is direct, clear and precise. It is unambiguous.

As a writer your goal is to get thoughts, swiftly and accurately, to your reader.

The best way to do this is by putting as few barriers as possible between your message and your audience.

Forget what you learnt about writing in school

You may have impressed teachers and exam markers with your grasp of obscure long words and clever grammar: in the real world simple, straightforward language works best.

This applies to all types of writing.

Think of your readers

Not all your readers are native English speakers. Not all them are highly educated. It’s unlikely you’ll impress those who are both with fancy words and cleverness.

  • If you have something worth saying (or writing) prefer short words over long ones. Words with Anglo-Saxon roots are easier to understand than ones from a Latin background. They are also easier to spell.
  • Use the smallest number of words needed. Where possible keep sentences and paragraphs short. A paragraph should contain a single idea.
  • Avoid jargon and foreign words.
  • Try to write in the everyday speech of ordinary people, but don’t overdo the chattiness and avoid slang.
  • Most of the time the active voice is better than the passive voice.
  • Learn how to punctuate.

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