As a professional editor, I work with a wide variety of material. I see everything from archaeology research papers to zombie love stories. Despite the extreme differences between these two genres, every work of English can benefit from the five following essential tips for writing.

Avoid Wordiness

The primary goal in any piece of writing is to pass information on to your reader in the most digestible way possible. In general, the fewer words you can use to describe the same thing, the better. I’m not suggesting that you use vague language. On the contrary; there are often common words you can use to get your point across in a much simpler way.

Use Complete Thoughts

It is not uncommon for people to speak in sentence fragments in real life, but in writing, you should always strive to use complete sentences. Many authors try to use short pieces to add emphasis, and while this is okay occasionally, frequent use of fragments leaves the reader confused.

Don’t Rely on Grammar Check

Unless you understand the reason why your grammar check is suggesting a change, don’t just accept the suggestion. Never assume that your word processor knows what you’re trying to say. Some documents I edit contain errors that almost certainly didn’t exist before the author used grammar check.

Take a Break from Your Project

Rereading a paragraph immediately after writing it, you’re likely to miss even the most obvious of mistakes. If you want to review your work, take a break before diving back in and making improvements.

Essential Tips for Writing

Only Use One Form of Emphasis

Too often, I see documents where the author tries to use too many forms of emphasis. In the same sentence I’ll see underlined words, italicized words, bold words, and even words in all caps. Your reader will be much less confused if you stick to one form of emphasis. Italics are the favorite of most editors and publishers.

Of all the mistakes I see, these five types are by far the most common. By following these pieces of advice, you can reduce errors in and improve the quality of your work.

Originally posted 11/19/2015 and happily updated 10/28/2017. Thanks for reading!

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