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Ten Ways to Improve Your Writing

Paper icon, showing that grade A+These ten strategies will help make your text stronger and more effective. There is more information on each idea in the linked video, in the textbook, and on related websites. Some of the videos refer to websites, but the concepts apply to other documents as well.

  1. Project the You-Attitude by appealing to the reader’s point of view. See Markel, p. 243, and  in “What Is the ‘You Attitude’?

  2. Use passive and active voice effectively. Generally, prefer the active voice. See Markel, pp. 141–143.

  3. Use lists to organize information clearly. See Markel, pp. 119, and Formatting Vertical Lists by Grammar Girl (check all 4 pages or listen to the podcast).

  4. Use parallel grammatical structures. See Markel, pp. 137, and details on parallel grammatical structures from the Purdue OWL.

  5. Contrast is a critical ingredient in every design. Ensure good contrast between text and background. See Markel, pp. 164.

  6. Make sure that your headings and subheadings create information-rich signposts for readers. See Markel, pp. 112–114.

  7. Avoid presenting a "wall of text" by "chunking" text and visual elements. See Markel, p. 167.

  8. Limit typefaces to two per document. Any more than that gives your text a messy or unprofessional appearance. See Markel, pp. 172–173.

  9. Use flush-left, ragged-right body text. Save centered text for graduation announcements and party invitations.

  10. Emphasize ten percent or less of text to make sure the key information stands out.

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