Owl Editing

Owl Editing

Tips for writers

Steps to Effective Writing (1)

Step 1. Write in Specifics – part 1

Writing in specific, concrete, definite terms is the most important single principle the student of effective writing can learn.

General, abstract, and vague terms are deadly foes of effective writing. They rob writing of all its vitality; they give the reader the unpleasant sensation of having entered a schizoid world in which nothing is exactly what he thinks it is.

Compare the vague:
   Because of inclement weather, our trip to Montreal was delayed.
with the definite:
   Because it rained, we postponed for a week our trip to Montreal.

Or look at these two sentences:
   The path was bordered with flowers.
   Salvias thrust up crimson spikes from the edge of the circular walk.

Or  again:
   The boy’s jacket was torn in many places.
   Pete’s jacket hung in rags.

Good, effective writing always consists of specifics, terms that convey sharp, clearly defined meanings to the reader, who has every right to expect a writer to say what he means in words as exact as possible. Only specifics can tell the reader precisely what the writer means.



from: 12 Steps to Effective Writing

Berton Robinson (1963)