Tip: If you're serious about improving your writing, one of the best ways is to improve your vocabulary — not so you know how to use big words, but so you can choose the right word at the right time to convey your meaning precisely and simply. To improve your vocabulary, we highly recommend you try the popular vocabulary-improvement software called Ultimate Vocabulary. Click Ultimate Vocabulary for details.*
First, make sure your word choice is correct. Avoid common English errors. For example, know the differences in meanings between words such as misinformation versus disinformation; uninterested versus disinterested; literally versus figuratively. To avoid common English errors, make sure you have a good vocabulary, one that is both wide and deep (see further, Deepen Your Vocabulary).
Second, think about the clarity of your words. If your writing is unclear, then your intended message is lost. Have someone read your work and provide feedback when deciding about clarity. For more information about how to write clearly, read our articles, How To Write Clearly: Word Choice and How To Write Clearly: Order of Words.
As for the third C, conciseness, never use two words where one word will do. One way to make sure that your speech or writing is concise is to look for unnecessary prepositional phrases. Consider these sentences:
- 1. Catherine went with Troy to the shops located in the suburb of Charnwood.
- 2. Catherine and Troy went to the Charnwood shops.
The second sentence is more concise because it lacks the wordiness of the first version. The first version has too many prepositional phrases. Prepositional phrases are phrases such as “over the river” or “through the forest” or “to grandmother’s house”. They help describe a state or condition, such as “with Troy”, “to the shops”, “in the suburb”, and “of Charnwood”. All four phrases dilute the sentence’s meaning. The second version reads more concisely without these prepositional phrases.
The fourth C, coherence, is like cohesion: the bonding quality that causes people or things to fit or work together effectively. When your writing is coherent, your message flows seamlessly from one point to the next, avoiding choppy delivery. To achieve coherence:
- stay on topic
- use transitions (for example, “Also”, “Moreover”, “Accordingly”)
- think about the connectedness of each point
For the fifth C, concreteness, use language that:
- the reader can easily “picture”
- is certain — in other words, use words in a sure and positive way
- is measurable — for example, specify a number rather than say merely “a number of” or “many” or “several”
- avoids unnecessary adjectives and adverbs
By following the Five Cs Of Writing Well, you can have confidence that your words reflect your intent and that your reader will understand you and enjoy reading your work.
*We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of Ultimate Vocabulary because we are happy to endorse this award-winning vocabulary-improvement software.