1. Use concrete instead of vague language.
Vague: The weather was of an extreme nature on the West Coast. This sentence raises frustrating questions: When did this extreme weather occur? What does “of an extreme nature” mean? Where on the West Coast did this take place?
Concrete: California had unusually cold weather last week.
2. Use active voice whenever possible. Active voice means the subject is performingthe verb. Passive voice means the subject receives the action.
Active: Barry hit the ball.
Passive: The ball was hit.
Passive is needed when subject is unknown. For example: “My watch was stolen.”
3. Avoid overusing there is, there are, it is, it was, etc.
Example: There is a case of meningitis that was reported in the newspaper.
Revision: A case of meningitis was reported in the newspaper.
Even better: The newspaper reported a case of meningitis. (Active voice)
4. Word order.
Word order can make or ruin a sentence. If you start a sentence with an incomplete phrase or clause, such as ‘While crossing the street’ or ‘Forgotten by history,’ it must be followed closely by the person or thing it describes. Furthermore, that person or thing is always the main subject of the sentence.
Dangler: Forgotten by history, his autograph was worthless.
The problem: his autograph shouldn’t come right after history, because he was forgotten, not his autograph.
Correct: He was forgotten by history, and his autograph was worthless.