Language is the primary conductor between our thoughts and our audience; effective language strengthens our message. Writing well and efficiently requires skills and may be learnt. Here are five tips to help you write efficiently.
1. Try to understand the “line of thought” for the language you are using
Differences between languages go further than words and symbols. Languages arrange words differently in a sentence; word groups that fit in one language do not work together in another. Even more important is that languages arrange ideas differently in a sentence or in a paragraph; this is known as thought pattern. Whether or not you are a native speaker, you must try to follow a thought pattern corresponding to the language you are using in order to write more efficiently and effectively.
For instance, the normal English paragraph follows a straight line. The paragraph usually begins with a statement of the main idea followed by some clarifications and some preparation for the next idea. Romance languages tend to deviate from time to time from the main straight line of thought to introduce digression; Oriental languages try to circle around the main idea. English language uses nouns and verbs as opposed to adjectives and adverbs — romance languages tend to use more adjectives and verb complements.
2. Chose a simple design for your text and hold it
A simple design creates a firm structure for your text. A simple design must follow a line of thought that guides the reader through your message — and many times the line of thought differs considerably from the order in which you thought about it. Make sure to focus each paragraph on a single idea.
Try to use definite and concrete language, avoid loose sentences and avoid the use of qualifiers. I suggest avoiding at least the following words: very, extremely, totally, completely, entirely, slightly, really and somewhat.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
This is one of the main rules of writing well from George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English language”. Less is more — cut out sentences, groups of sentences, or paragraphs if possible. Elimination is an important part of writing and we often skip it. Do not try to write a concise text at the beginning but take the time to improve it by removing unnecessary words in sentences, and sentences in paragraphs.
It does not mean we have to curtail our text at all costs but we have to make every word count — whether it is long or short.
4. Create your own style
Creating a good style in a text is a less orthodox suggestion than being clear or brief — no one knows why a particular arrangement of common words creates a vigorous sentence. Write naturally, do not use clichés (and if you do, try to tweak them with a personal touch) and do not explain too much. Choose an angle, a point of view and maintain it.
5. Revise and rewrite your text
Samuel Johnson said that what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure, and this means that writing — like painting or playing an instrument — requires attention. Revising and rewriting serves not only to remove unnecessary words and sentences, but also to detect flaws or poor arrangements of your ideas, or even odd style changes.