Ten Tips for writing vigorous prose

William Strunk thought the best writing was vigorous (The Elements of Style). Here are ten tips for writing vigorous prose.

1. “The golden rule is to pick those words that convey to the reader the meaning of the writer and to use them and only them.” (Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words)

2. “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all of his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subject only in outline, but that every word tell.” (W. Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 4th edition)

3. “. . . words are the only tools you’ve got. Learn to use them with originality and care. Value them for their strength and their precision. And remember: somebody out there is listening.” (William Zinsser, On Writing Well)

4. “Short words are best, and the old words, when they are short, are the best of all.” (Winston Churchill)

5. The best writing is
     • clear
     • trim
     • alive

6. Grammar matters, but style matters more.

7. “Writing is the most exact form of thinking.” (Carol Gelderman, All the Presidents’ Words)

8. Writing is a process, and most of it happens when you are not writing.

9. Good writing is aware of itself — but not self-conscious. It does not happen accidentally. It results from the care the author takes with word choice, sentence structure and organization.

10. “Writing is only reading turned inside out.” ( John Updike)

... Excerpt from "Writing Well - An essential guide" by Mark Tredinnick.


Gregory said...

Very informative blog Prahlad. I think I will be using several of these tips on my own first blog. I especially like how you talked about the issues surrounding plagiarism and how to detect those who take your work.

Truer words were never spoken better... Writing is only reading inside out.

Prahlad Yeri said...

Thanks for the support Gregory. Yes, I think plagiarism is one of those bad things still infecting the online world. Initiatives from search engines like Google and Bing should help eradicte this for good, which I'm sure will happen in the near future.