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Section 1
Introduction to Effective Writing Style

INTRODUCTION.  Putting our thoughts on paper is important, but just as important is to ensure that what we have written clearly communicates our intentions. Our understanding of "how to" organize our thoughts into coherent sentences and paragraphs can help ensure that we communicate clearly. The objective of this lesson  is to help you as a writer sharpen your style by briefly reviewing the structure and function of word groups (phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs) to assist you in writing effectively.


a.  Accuracy. Your work should represent only essential and accurate facts free of bias or distortion.

b.  Brevity and completeness. You must keep to essentials. Your writing should be brief and to the point. To cover a subject completely, while keeping the length of the paper to the absolute minimum requires careful analysis and probably several revisions. If necessary, attach explanatory facts and figures as annexes. The shorter your paper, the less your chance for error. On the other hand, never sacrifice clarity to gain brevity.

c.  Clarity. You must make a special effort to keep your writing clear and fully understandable. Your readers must be certain of your intent. Select words and phrases that express your exact meaning and can only have one interpretation. Using familiar, precise words contributes to clarity in writing.

d.  Coherence. Coherence is the logical development and arrangement of a subject. You can achieve coherence by first thinking the subject through and seeing it as a whole, then arranging the various parts logically and harmoniously. When writing on a complex subject, use an outline to achieve coherence.

e.  Unity. Your writing must adhere to a single idea. You should apply this principle not only to each sentence and paragraph but also to your entire paper. If you have more than one subject to discuss, prepare a separate paper on each subject.


a.  The purpose statement. Open with a short, clear purpose sentence. The purpose statement is not the same as the bottom line. It only tells the reader what to expect when reading the paper. A purpose statement does not tell the reader the conclusion(s) the writer draws.

b.  Thesis. The bottom line or thesis statement tells your reader what it is you consider important. Put the recommendation, conclusion, or most important information (the main point) next. (Some writers combine the purpose and the main point.) The common standard for writing requires putting the main point up front and using the active voice. It is best to capture your bottom line in a single sentence that is clear and easy to understand. Being able to state your thesis in a single sentence indicates that you have a good understanding of your subject. After you have stated your bottom line and explained it in the first paragraph, you are free to support your thesis. For example:

Purpose: It is the purpose of this paper to discuss creating a fair and democratic electoral system for Haiti.
Thesis: The proposed changes to the Haitian electoral system will ensure fair and democratic elections.

c.  Major parts. Introduce the major parts right after your thesis statement. This tells the reader how you will develop support for your position.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 14, 2016