Here are 10 ways to produce more vivid, direct, concise prose. Though you shouldn’t use these tactics indiscriminately, you can usually improve your prose by following the recommendations below:
1. Use active voice
When a sentence includes be or any other copulative verb, such as is or were, recast the sentence to omit the verb.
Before: “The meeting was seen by us as a ploy to delay the project.”
After: “We saw the meeting as a ploy to delay the project.”
2. Avoid vague nouns
Phrases formed around general nouns such as aspect, degree, and situation clutter sentences.
Before: “She is an expert in the area of international relations.”
After: “She is an expert in international relations.”
3. Use words, not their definitions
Replace explanatory phrases with a single word that encapsulates that explanation.
Before: “The crops also needed to be marketable so that families would be able to sell any yields that exceeded what they personally required.”
After: “The crops also needed to be marketable so that families would be able to sell any surplus.” (Better still: “…families could sell…”)
4. Avoid noun strings
Reorganize sentences to eliminate series of nouns used as adjectives.
Before: “The lack of a secure transfer may hamper computer security incident response efforts.”
After: “The lack of a secure transfer may hamper responses to computer-security incidents.”
5. Convert nouns to verbs
When a sentence includes a noun ending in -tion, change the noun to a verb to simplify the sentence.
Before: “They will collaborate in the creation of new guidelines.”
After: “They will collaborate to create new guidelines.”
6. Reduce verb phrases to simple verbs
Identify the verb buried in a verb phrase and omit the rest of the phrase.
Before: “The results are suggestive of the fact that tampering has occurred.”
After: “The results suggest that tampering has occurred.”
7. Replace complex words with simple ones
Choose simpler synonyms for multisyllabic words.
Before: “The department will disseminate the forms soon.”
After: “The department will pass out the forms soon.”
8. Avoid expletives
Don’t start sentences with “There is,” “There are,” or “It is.”
Before: “There are many factors in the product’s failure.”
After: “Many factors contributed to the product’s failure.”
9. Eliminate prepositional phrases
Replace “(noun1) of the (noun2)” phrasing with “(noun2)’s (noun1)” phrasing.
Before: “The decision of the committee is final.”
After: “The committee’s decision is final.”
10. Reduce wordy phrases to single words
Replace phrases that signal a transition with simple conjunctions, verbs, or other linking words.
Before: Due to the fact that the project is behind schedule, today’s meeting has been postponed.
After: Because the project is behind schedule, today’s meeting has been postponed.
A version of this article originally appeared on DailyWritingTips.com.