Writing Style

People read what you write, not what you mean to say.

Make sure your words really communicate, since your
readers cannot read your mind.

A little bit [alliteration] can be good, but watch out for doing this excessively as it then distracts the reader. Avoid stacking sounds such as the the  ‘r’ words in ‘remain riveted in that revelation radically rewires.’ ”

from Modern American Usage

Common Writing Faults

Good diction, which is good word choice,  avoids these faults: 

  • Wordiness,
  • Unnecessary ten-dollar words,
  • Ambiguity, and
  • Words that don't mean what you think they mean.

Be aware of words you might confuse with other words:

See Words You Might Confuse for some examples;

and see also Style Guides and Dictionaries. 

Don’t use excessive alliteration (for example, "Steve stumbled over the slithering snake silently slipping past him") or use a pompous ten-dollar word where a simple
and direct five-cent word will do (such as "utilize" instead
of "use"), or allow other writing faults to distract your readers.

Writing in passive voice may put your readers to sleep. 
Readers want active wording, not passive.


  • Sometimes, in a misguided attempt to introduce variety into their writing, authors use more than one word or phrase to express an exactly identical meaning.

Readers may be left wondering whether or not there is some difference in meaning that matches the differences in terms. Avoid this mistake by being consistent in the words you use to define, describe or explain an idea or thing.

  • Avoid writing a passage that sounds like you transcribed it from a thesaurus. And when you do use a thesaurus, make sure the words you find really carry the exact connotation you mean to use.
  • Avoid repeating the same word so often that it becomes monotonous and stands out like a verbal tic to the reader. Writers often have favorite words or expressions: Try to catch yours and avoid overusing these.


Readers need a logical flow or organic order to follow in order to understand you, just as it's easier to follow a timeline that is chronological. Don't jump around.

Imagine yourself in your reader's mind---not already knowing what is meant---and consider whether your wording really explains and describes your ideas and facts clearly and thoroughly. 

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite... 

Your third or fourth draft may not be your final version. Prune the deadwood (see Wordiness and Word Choice)

Writing Guidelines

 George Orwell:

Politics and the English Language”,

Collection of Essays

  • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner that say anything outright barbarous.







 Writing faults

can pull readers’ attention away from your words.

Even in nonfiction, you need to immerse your readers in a kind of "story."




Passive Writing

Word C

Words Easily Confused


Problem Words

 Site Map


Copyright © 2007 Donna K. Reeder