I’m always interested in ways that I can improve my writing. It’s a lifelong learning experience and always a challenge. The following is a smorgasbord of some useful takeaways that I’ve come across:
Avoid Redundant Terms
There are many phrases we frequently say that get translated into writing, but are redundant and should be omitted from your writing. A few examples:
- End result: Use result, no need to say both
- Final outcome: Use outcome, don’t need final
- Revert back: Just use back
- Postpone until later: Postpone, no need to use until later
- Past memories: Use memories
- Free gift: Gifts are free
- Unexpected surprise: Surprises are unexpected by nature
Use (or don’t use) Contractions Consistently
Either use them throughout the document or do not. In general, contractions should be avoided in more formal writing. In fact, according to AP Style, the Bible for journalists, “Contractions reflect informal speech and writing. Avoid excessive use of contractions.”
Cut the Fat
No matter who your audience is or for what purpose you’re writing something, we can all stand to cut out some fat. One of the most effective ways to cut the fat is to be direct and omit superfluous introductory statements. For example:
- I wanted to tell you that…
- I am writing to you to share that…
- It is important to remember that…
Stay on Top of AP Style Rules
If you’re an AP Style nerd like me, you may be interested in the latest updates for 2019.
The most notable change for me is the use of “%” instead of writing out “percent.”
- Percent, percentage,
percentage points: Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in
- Spell out percent in casual use: He has a zero percent chance of passing the bar exam.
- Use decimals rather than fractions with percents: Mortgage rates are only 4.75%.
- For numbers less than 1%, precede it with a zero: The population grew by 0.7% last year.
Some other additions worth knowing about:
- When a prefix ends in a vowel and the word it’s attached to begins with the same vowel, then hyphenate. Reelect and reelection are exceptions to that rule. Generally, do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant.
- There’s a whole new section on Race and Racism, the terms racially charged and racially motivated are to no longer be used by journalists.
- Terms such as Asian Americans and African Americans no longer require hyphens.