Archive for the ‘Editorial style guide’ Category

A few good ways to improve your writing

May 12, 2009

Writing is one of the most effective tools of communication. But how well do we communicate our thoughts to others? A good writer is one who uses simple lucid language, is able to convey ideas clearly, grab the reader’s attention and keep him coming back for more. Sometimes in our eagerness to write concisely, we overdo things, with the result that we end up with a poor draft. In this article, we will have a look at some of the areas where we can improve our writing skills.

Convey Ideas Using Short Paragraphs

A paragraph consists of one or more sentences that convey an idea, thought or expression. Topic Sentence, the first sentence in the paragraph, should list the main idea that is to be discussed. Supporting sentences, such as examples should describe and lend support to the main idea, and finally the closing sentence should re-emphasize the importance of the main idea.


  • Keep your paragraphs short. Long rambling paragraphs will make the reader lose interest quickly. Similarly, a paragraph with a single sentence will not convey the desired information clearly.
  • Make sure that there is a logical flow of information from one sentence to another. An ideal paragraph should be 5 to 6 sentences long.

Use Active Voice, Avoid Passive Verbs

Active voice is used in sentences where the subject performs an action on the object.

Example: The boy hit the dog.

Boy = Subject
Hit = Verb
Dog = Object.

Passive voice is used in sentences where an action is being performed on the subject.

Example: The dog was hit by the boy.

Boy = Subject
Hit = Verb
Dog = Object.


  • Use active voice as often as possible as they are short and convey ideas clearly.
  • Use passive voice when you do not want the reader to know who is performing the action.
  • Avoid using too many passive sentences. This might create confusion in the mind of the reader as to who is performing the action.
  • Avoid shifting the voice mid-sentence. Maintain the same voice throughout the sentence.

Avoid Redundancy

Redundancy is simply repeating the same information over and over again. Sometimes, just to emphasize an idea we end up explaining that idea in different ways. This makes for uninteresting reading.


  • Don’t explain the same idea twice.
  • Read through your text, look for repetitive text and remove them.
  • Trim your phrases. For example, instead of saying “place emphasis on” just say “emphasize”.
  • If possible, modify your clauses to phrases.
  • Avoid using puffed up words that don’t add meaning to your sentence.

Construct and Maintain Parallel Sentences

Parallel construction is used to express two or more ideas that carry an equal weight or importance in a sentence. They add more clarity to a sentence.

Example: Maria is clever, charming and pleasing.

Non Example: Maria is clever, charming and she has a pleasing personality.


  • Ensure that you use the same structure for expressions that are closely related. Example: We thought the program was both knowledgeable and entertaining. Non Example: The program was both knowledgeable for us, and entertaining.
  • When writing a series or list of items, use articles or prepositions, for each item, or only for the first item. Example: We were thrilled to see the monuments, tombs and the ruins of ancient Rome.
    Non Example: We were thrilled to see the monuments, the tombs and the ruins of ancient Rome.
  • When writing sentences identify and maintain a pattern and take it to its conclusion.

Writing Style

You may write on varied subjects and for different audiences. When you have a consistent writing style or pattern you can effectively reach out to your audience and hold their attention.


  • Avoid using stiff formal expressions. Example: Take due care to turn off the lights when you leave the room. Non Example: Ensure that you turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  • Avoid language that is overly descriptive and poetic.
  • Do not use colloquial expressions or slang.
  • Do not use repetitive words or phrases. This will make your content too conventional.
  • Avoid ambiguity. Vague sentence structures will only confuse the reader.
  • Write cohesively. Remove words or phrases that are irrelevant and that add no meaning to the content.


I have briefly touched upon some areas that can help improve your writing skills. Although this is not an exhaustive list, following these guidelines will give you a strong foundation and help you make your mark in the world of professional writing.


Editorial style guide: Active voice vs. Passive voice

March 30, 2009

While trying to educate, provide instructions and teach people through written communication, it is best to use active voice. Active voice involves the use of verbs which signify action rather than nouns and adjectives. Active voice makes the communication of instructions clearer because the subjects are performing the task or action. Active voice will help give your writing, life. It can also make a weak sentence emphatic and give it greater impact.


Passive voice: There were riots in several towns in Northern England last night, in which police clashed with
stone-throwing youths.

Active voice: Youths throwing stones clashed with police during riots in several towns in Northern England last night.

Editorial style guide: Use of Abbreviation and Acronyms

March 23, 2009


Abbreviations are shortened from of a word. Some of the commonly used abbreviations are e.g. for example, cont for continue or continued just to name a few. Even thought abbreviations are not often used by technical writers during the documentation process it is basic for any writer to know.


Acronyms are composed from a group of words or a phrase.  Sometimes they are pronounced as words or spelled out. They are normally formed by placing the first letter of every word in the phrase together.
During the writing process, especially if acronyms are used for the first time, it is better that they are spelled out within parenthesis and can be used as acronyms thereafter in the document. Acronyms when written in their plural form do not need an apostrophe.

Examples of an Acronym:

  • It’s been three years since I purchased this PC (Personal Computer).
  • The PCs are all brand new.