Learning Goals in the Year of the Dragon – Improve Your Writing Style

 16 February 2012

  Image by Newtown grafitti


In last week’s post, we talked about improving grammar using a method called ‘My Favourite Mistakes’. Today I’d like to talk about a method to improve your writing style.


‘My Favourite Style’

Writing style involves what we consider at the TRIM stage: coherence, clarity, conciseness, cohesiveness and tone.


Setting small sub-goals to improve your writing style will be more effective than aiming for a large, general goal. So try to focus on improving one small aspect of style for 3-4 weeks before going on to another one.


Let’s look at an example of this method on how to make your writing clear.


My Favourite Style: Clarity

There are many ways to ensure your writing is clear. Here are just a few:

·      Check each document’s readability statistics.

·      Think about the specific point you want to make.

·      Use precise headings, titles/subtitles & subject lines.

·      Replace as many nouns as possible with strong verbs.

·      Use active voice instead of passive voice wherever possible.

·      Think about the responses you get from readers.


My Favourite Style: Method

Unlike the method for ‘My Favourite Mistakes’ that we outlined last week, the method for 'My Favourite Style' will not be based on mistakes. Rather, you will choose specific ways to refine your style.


Here’s how to proceed:

1.    Decide which general category of style you want to work on (clarity, conciseness, coherence etc).

2.   List a few specific aspects of that category you want to focus on (see the list above for examples).

3.   Prepare a 3- or 4-week diary (or calendar) for one aspect.

4.   Check your writing for that single aspect every day.

5.   Write reflections in the diary/calendar on what you’ve learned each day.

6.   Choose a new aspect to focus on after the time period you’ve set.

7.   Repeat steps 3-6.



Let’s say I’ve chosen to focus on three aspects of clear writing style: checking readability statistics; replacing nouns with strong verbs; and writing precise headings.


I would prepare a 3- or 4-week diary for each of those three aspects.


·      During the first three (or four) weeks, I would check the readability statistics for at least one document that I wrote each day. (Go here for instructions on how to do that.)

·      For the next three (or four) weeks, I would check all the nouns in at least one document I wrote each day to see if they could be replaced with verbs. (Go here for guidelines.)

·      During the next three weeks, I would check my headings, titles/subtitles and subject lines in at least one document each day, to make sure they were precise. (For guidelines, go here.)


Aspects for other general style categories

I’ve listed posts in the general style categories under the ‘Favourites’ tab at the top of the page.


Go to that page, and then click the articles for further tips and guidelines on improving your style.


Please share your own tips

As always, I welcome your thoughts and tips on ways to improve business writing. Please comment below or send me an email. Thanks!


Copyright 2014 DeGolyer Associates Ltd |  Contact Deborah at:  writewithtaste@me.com