Sloppy Writing: Top 10 Ways to Clean It Up

Have you been told that your writing is sloppy? Does your writing lose its effectiveness because people stumble through it? Below are 10 steps to take to help clean up your writing.

  • Use shorter sentences. Nothing makes writing more difficult to read than long sentences. Shorten them. But this doesn’t mean to count words for every sentence you write. The goal is to make sentences easier to read. Chop unnecessary words. Take out long dependent phrases, clauses, and strings of prepositional phrases. Your readers will thank you!
  • Read it aloud. If your own writing is confusing to you, then it will definitely be to someone who does not know what you intend to say! You will hear many things that sound incorrect to your ear and help you become a better writer. Plus you will find common mistakes, such as leaving out or duplicating words.
  • Give it to someone else to read. Ask that person if your writing makes logical sense, gives a clear argument, is confusing, or has areas that need to be rewritten—whatever you think tend to be your weak points. You might just get feedback that is extremely helpful from a source you never saw coming.
  • Outline your thoughts and make sure your writing follows it. Some like to jump into their writing efforts without outlining or thinking through what they are going to say. Not outlining means you will ramble and can easily lead to sloppy writing.
  • Use subheads. Subheads will bring organization to your writing and help keep you and the reader keep track. Remember the rule of never having one subhead stand by itself. And it is OK to have several different levels of subheads in your writing.
  • Keep your main idea in front of you. This is so important, especially when writing an essay or dissertation. Take away the main idea and sometimes the purpose of writing becomes blurry. If need be, include your main idea as a header on every word processing page or post it on your computer screen as you write.
  • Think of possible objections. If you think ahead how people might differ with your assessment, facts, or hypotheses, then you will be better able to craft your argument to win them over. Clear thinking makes persuasive writing.
  • Know the audience you are writing for. There is no greater mistake than to miss the audience to whom you are writing. People may only give you one chance to win them over. Plus, editors will dismiss your writing quickly if you miss the audience.
  • Use spell check and grammar check. I tell students that God created these handy tools and meant for students to use them. Even professors forget occasionally, but these checkers catch so many mistakes. It is no excuse to forget these essential tools.
  • Think of communicating to a novice. What questions would he have? How do you put your writing into simple terms? Simplifying is a difficult task for some assignments, but writing with these questions in mind will cause you to understand the subject matter on a different level and communicate it more clearly to the reader.

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