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Writers often struggle with a common issue: Putting their thoughts into concise sentences.
Instead of communicating with a tight, to-the-point narrative, they fumble around. They add unnecessary words and write long, rambling sentences that cloud up the overall idea.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, with a few quick pointers, you can immediately start paring down your sentences to make your writing pack more punch.
Here are my best tips for writing stronger sentences (and a few examples, too.)
Keep it short and sweet.
One of the easiest ways to add clarity is to re-read your sentences and see what can be edited out or simplified. If you struggle to know which sentences are too complex, tools like Hemingway App are great for spotlighting the ones that need your attention. Here’s an example of what this looks like in action:
V1: When I ordered the standing desk from the store, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the way it looked sitting on my desk in my office because it seemed kind of large and bulky.
V2: I ordered the standing desk not knowing if it was too big for my desk.
Eliminate passive voice.
Passive voice makes the subject of a sentence acted on by the verb. For example, if you were using passive voice, you’d write: “The chair was lifted by the mover” instead of “The mover lifted the chair.” Many times, passive voice makes your sentences more clunky. Feel free to cut it right out of your sentences. Snip-snap!
Ditch the adverbs.
Adverbs are embellishment for sentences. Think of them like rhinestones. In theory, they look flashy and bold…but sometimes they come off as kinda cheesy.
Most often, they communicate a quality that’s not necessary to put into writing. Adverbs attempt to fill in the gaps around people and actions, but this can make your readers feel like you don’t trust them to make these connections on their own. Here’s an example (adverbs in bold):
V1: Tina always arrives terribly late to a party, carefully dressed and made up in a way that’s extremely overdone.
V2: Tina is late to parties because she spends hours getting dressed and doing her makeup.
Get rid of redundancies.
Why use two or three words that mean about the same thing when you could get the job done with one? Looking back for redundancies within your sentences makes it easy to cut out pieces that aren’t needed. Here’s what this looks like in action:
V1: The dog had beautiful fur that was soft, smooth, and plush—it reminded me of velvet.
V2: The dog’s fur was so soft it reminded me of velvet.
Now, are these hard and fast rules?
Nah. Your writing voice may lend itself to toeing the line. And that's okay. These are just a few tips that can help get you started down the path to greater clarity.
Want more writing tips? Check out:
- Writing formulas for conversions and sales
- How to write compelling intros
- How to make your brand voice speak your customer's language
This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.