How to write more simply

One of the major points noted by reviewers in academic papers is language which is unnecessarily obscure and obtuse. The reviewer or editor may feel that there is a good point in there somewhere, but it is not easy for the reader to see what it is.

By contrast, good English is economical and spares redundant words. In his delightfully witty book, Lost for Words1 John Humphreys describes the qualities of good English as:

'...clear, simple, plain and of jargon, although there will be exceptions. It should be easy to read and listen to rather than a chore. At the very least it should not make our tongues fur up.'

In these pages we provide some suggestions on how you can make your style clearer. We will do so under the following headings.

Develop a coherent argument

              Writing a purpose statement
              Good introductions and conclusions
              Some things to avoid
              Make effective transitions
              Using headings

Use the paragraph effectively

              What makes a paragraph
              Topic sentences
              Ensuring coherence
              Paragraph length

Write clear sentences

              Use the active rather than the passive voice
              Use parallel sentence construction
              Use punctuation carefully
              Use phrasal constructions carefully and accurately

Avoid wordiness

              Cut the clutter
              Avoid circumlocutions
              Avoid 'padding' words and tautologies
              Avoid unnecessary determiners, qualifiers and modifiers
              Change clauses into phrases and phrases into single words
              Avoid using nown formulations for verbs
              Avoid repetition or excessive detail

We are grateful to Professor Gabriel Jacobs, Professor of European Business Management at University of Wales, Swansea, for permission to use extracts from an article 'Call Vocabulary Acquisition: the University Institute Experience'. Extracts from this article remain his copyright.

1Published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2004, 14.99

Develop a coherent argument