A book or an article is made up of paragraphs, sentences and words. But ultimately, it’s the sentences are the tools that convey your thoughts. Crafting better sentences has a goal: Every sentence you write should make your audience want to read the next sentence.
The key is to write well, sentence by sentence. The result will be better paragraphs and better content. The idea is to keep your reader focused on your message Following are some tips for how to get started.
Review surrounding sentences
When you’re reviewing your rough draft, look at each sentence. Remember, your first draft is called a rough draft for a reason. It’s rough. It’s an opportunity to review the text to improve any technical errors, but also to improve the flow and sentence structure. As you review each sentence, look at the sentences that precede and follow it. Here’s why.
a) Look for overuse of a word. Many speakers and writers are guilty of having a favorite word, and tend to repeat it too often. As you go through your draft, vary your word choices to avoid sounding repetitive. Use a thesaurus if necessary.
b) Look for belabored points. Every sentence in your text should have a specific purpose. If, in order to drive a point home, you repeat that point in several sentences, maybe even in different ways, you really haven’t added anything new for your reader. Better to gather up all the points you want to make and drive that into one powerful sentence (though not by writing all the words).
As you review each sentence in your draft, you can use a simple technique to highlight good sentences, mediocre ones, and sentences that definitely help. Indicate them by using bolding, underlining, or doing nothing; you could change the text to green, yellow, or red; or create your own method to indicate the status of each sentence.
As you practice this skill, you’ll find that it creates a domino effect. Noting one weak sentence and strengthening it will lead you to correcting additional sentences. Net result: strong writing.
Clear out the excess
Excess words get into sentences almost unconsciously. These sentences can often be easily shortened and made clearer. Looking for excess words and phrases will sharpen your writing.
Make sure that you’re using words correctly
Many words in English sound alike; and many words sound like they mean one thing, when they really mean something else. One example is enervate. It might sound to the ear that this word might mean “to energize”, but in fact, it means “to deprive of force or strength; destroy the vigor of; weaken”. The reason is that “en” is not the prefix; it’s “e” meaning away from. So, enervate literally means “energy away from”.
So, as you read through your draft, use a dictionary and/or thesaurus (paper or online) to check words you don’t use every day or words whose meaning or usage you’re not sure of. Even if you’re 90% sure you know the word, that 10% should force you to check it. It’s also useful and necessary to verify the spelling of people’s names, addresses, places, companies, products, services, website addresses, etc. These are often left to chance or are not updated since the first writing, and can ruin an otherwise professional text.
Bottom line, if you want to be a professional writer, it’s important to take the extra time to ensure that your readers understand your content, that points are well and succinctly made, and they’re not distracted by silly technical mistakes (e.g., misspelling words or misusing a word or idiom).
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