Editing for Clarity and Direct Style

Use Strong Verbs

Try to avoid all forms of be (am, are, is, been, being, was, were). Sometimes a “be” verb best suits the need of the sentence, but often you can find a stronger, more precise verb. Use your computer's search utility to find each form of be, and see if you can substitute a livelier verb.

Avoid Passive Voice

Active voice is stronger than passive voice. In active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. In passive voice, the subject receives the action.

Arrange Sentences Strategically

Put the most important information early in the sentence because the beginning of a sentence breaks a silence and calls attention to itself. The last words of a sentence often gain emphasis, but are still less powerful than the first words. The middle of a sentence generally draws the least attention. Here are two ways to create powerful sentence starters:

1.  Make your main ideas the subject of your sentences. Readers want to know right away what a sentence is about, so don’t confuse them by making subjects ambiguous or difficult to find.

Original: The Cincinnati, Ohio Tri-state areas, as defined by the boundaries of Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Region Council of Governments, is experiencing unplanned, unchecked urbanization complicated by the myopic and disjointed planning areas of local governments.

Revised: Disjointed planning efforts result in unplanned and unchecked urbanization.

2.  Eliminate “throat-clearing” openers like “There,” “It.” There will be times when you’ll want to begin sentences with a dummy opener (as here). But, opening most of your sentences with real subjects will make your writing more dynamic.

Original: There are a multitude of sources that can be drawn upon and used as models.

Revised: We can use a variety of models.

Howe Writing Initiative ‧ Farmer School of Business ‧ Miami University

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