Ten tips for effective writing

“Writing, to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which these thoughts occur.” Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, 1979.

The tips below are mostly drawn from Strunk and White’s brilliant little book, The Elements of Style. Its language seems archaic now but the principles it sets out are still spot on. I took the liberty of translating these principles into today’s language for my colleagues at the NHS Confederation.

They've served me very well in my communications career (first as a journalist and later as a writer for charities) and I firmly believe that every writer who aims to be read should apply these simple principles to their work.

1. Put your audience first.

2. Plan before you write.

3. Introduce only one idea per sentence/paragraph.

4. Use active voice.

5. Use concrete language.

6. Make every word count.

7. Say just the right amount.

8. Avoid jargon and complicated words.

9. Express similar content in a similar way.

10. Be wary of opinion and speculation.

I plan to expand on each of these points, with examples. Keep an eye on this blog and feel free to post questions in the comments field. I’ll do my best to answer them.

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