6 Essential Tips For Effective Writing


The power of the written word should not be underestimated. Clear, effective writing requires both practice and attention to detail. Here are some tips writers use to make sure they meet the needs of their readers.

1. Read before writing

Any writer would do well to bear in mind the words of Esko Valtaoja: “You are what you read”. Before putting pen to paper, it is important to be comfortable with various styles and writing conventions. This may be obvious for fiction writers, but extends to all writing tasks. Whether composing a short and snappy memo, a formal business letter, or a copy of your favourite recipe, you should first become familiar with the recurring features of similar texts. Identify which style works best for your purposes and use elements of this style in your own writing.

2. Sentence structure

There are three main sentence varieties: simple, compound and complex. Simple sentences contain one independent clause – they contain a subject and a verb and express a complete thought. For example:

[I speak English].

Compound sentences combine two independent clauses with a co-ordinator. For example:

[I speak English] and [my parents speak Igbo].

Complex sentences are composed of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses (clauses that do not form complete grammatical sentences). For example:

[When talking with friends], [I speak English].

3. Vary your tone

For most writing tasks the most effective writing style makes use of simple, compound and complex sentences. Varying sentence length makes the text more interesting for the reader. Always write with the audience in mind. Younger readers, for example, generally respond better to simpler vocabulary and shorter sentences. Persuasive texts often require short, simple sentences. These grab the attention of the audience, before longer sentence structures elaborate on the subject matter.

4. Get to the point

Shorter sentences work best at the start of a text. These inform the reader of the tone and subject matter. In fields such as journalism the reader is unlikely to read the entire text and instead often merely skims the introductory paragraph. In such cases writing must be concise. Avoid obscure vocabulary and lengthy sentences, favouring plain English instead.

5. Proofread and edit

After writing the text, read over it numerous times to check for grammatical errors. Reading aloud will allow you to gauge the fluency of the text. If a word, phrase or sentence does not add to the information or impact of the writing, remove it.

6. Learn to love language

Effective writing requires a critical approach and a genuine interest in language. Of course, writing is a broad term used to cover many contexts, each needing distinctive knowledge and skill.

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