sandy henderson – central london copywriter

ten business writing tips

  1. Be ruthless with content. Be clear who you are writing for and what tone of voice to use for them. Then cut out any details you don’t think will interest them, and any references they won’t understand.
  2. Take the shortest route from A to B. Take out words that don’t add to the meaning (just, really, then, indeed). Use the active mood instead of the passive (I walked the dog not the dog was walked by me). Use short words in place of long ones.
  3. Express yourself without emotion. Don’t use exclamation marks. Remove emphatic adjectives (very, extremely, utterly, massive, absolute).
  4. Write to express, not to impress. Use everyday English. Avoid clichés, jargon, slang, technical terms and foreign words. A phrase is a cliché if the reader could complete it when only given the first half.
  5. Avoid literary flourishes. Don’t over-use descriptive adjectives and adverbs. Use metaphors rather than similes. Quicken the pace by shortening sentence length, and by using dynamic verbs instead of stative verbs with an abstract noun (I expect not my expectation is).
  6. Avoid authorial intrusion. This includes ‘floating’ adverbs used to indicate the writer’s view of events (frankly, ideally, hopefully) and ‘secret’ communication through irony.
  7. Avoid the ‘asthmatic’ comma. Commas are used to clarify meaning by showing which words are part of the same idea or phrase and which are part of the next idea. They are also used for emphasis. They do not mark the places where a reader should pause for breath.
  8. Don’t overdo linkage at the start of sentences (in addition, however, accordingly). Connections can often be inferred.
  9. Replace clumsy phrases, especially compound prepositions (in relation to, with reference to, in respect of) and repetitions of words or sounds.
  10. Break any rule, but only on purpose. It is acceptable to sensibly split infinitives although to repeatedly do so may sound inelegant. And there is no harm in occasionally using a conjunction to begin a sentence or a preposition to end it with.