- Write to communicate, not to impress with your writing. Good writers disappear behind the subject they bring to life.
- Short sentences are usually stronger than long ones. Weak: She was so confused, she didn’t know what to do. Stronger: She was stumped.
- Small words are better than big ones. Weak: Masticate. Stronger: Chew. Weak: Expectorate. Stronger: Spit. Weak: Inebriated. Stronger:Drunk.
- Active is stronger than passive voice. Weak: He was being watched by everyone in the neighborhood. Stronger: Everyone in the neighborhood watched him.
- Beware “is,” “are,” “was” and “were.” They usually suggest passive voice, and therefore an opportunity for better writing. Weak: She was well-liked. Stronger: People liked her.
- Forget what your English teacher said about avoiding “you” and its derivatives. In real writing, use “you” freely, but intelligently. Addressing the reader as “the reader,” or a customer as “the customer,” is punishable by death. Weak: The reader [customer] will appreciate… Stronger: You’ll love…
- Edit like mad. Throw out anything you can without changing meaning.Weak: He told everyone present that his motive for killing the late canary was the inescapable result of a considerable number of mishaps during his childhood. Better: He blamed killing the canary on his childhood.
- Don’t use adverbs. They usually signal the need for a stronger verb. Weak: He walked slowly. Stronger: He lumbered. Or: He crept. Or: He shuffled. Or: He moped.
- Show, don’t tell. Weak: He was mad. Better: His face reddened, his fists tightened, and his jaw trembled. Smoke curled out of his left ear.
- Avoid “got,” “get,” etc. They signal a need for a better verb or better sentence structure. Weak: He was getting hungry. Stronger: His stomach growled.
- Avoid cliches. Weak: He settled into bed, snug as a bug in a rug, and lived happily ever after. Stronger: He slipped into bed and turned off the light.
Cuno’s Rules for Stronger Writing
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