The 10-step checklist for vivid writing

Extraneous words and vapid phrases gum up most writing today. Get the gunk out, and let your message shine through.

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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.

2. Avoid vague nouns

Phrases formed around general nouns such as aspect, degree, and situation clutter sentences.

3. Use words, not their definitions

Replace explanatory phrases with a single word that encapsulates that explanation.

4. Avoid noun strings

Reorganize sentences to eliminate series of nouns used as adjectives.

5. Convert nouns to verbs

When a sentence includes a noun ending in -tion, change the noun to a verb to simplify the sentence.

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