There are a bunch of 'style guides' that try to capture lists of suggestions for writing well. They are too long for my taste, so i'm going to make my own shorter list here.

i don't know how to write well myself, i am mostly just collecting suggestions i've heard elsewhere. Some of these may be bad advice.

Note that i do not use this style for most of the pages on this website, because most of them (including this one) are just notes to myself that i figured i would make public.


Be concise

Beware of mixed metaphors

Beware of cliches

Use easy words

What are easy words? There are various lists of easy words, including Basic English 850, Basic English 1500, VOA.

Also, one syllable words and words of few letters (e.g. four letters or less) tend to be easy.

(note: somewhat offtopic, but here is a list of supposedly mnemonic words: )

Use active voice

Beware negation

It's easier to read a sentence that makes a positive statement than one with a negation (I'm not talking about optimism and pessimism here, only grammatical negation). Especially avoid double negation.


Beware precise use of qualifiers

Beware parentheses and subordinate clauses

Beware long sentences, many nouns in a row, verb tenses other than past/present/future, many indirect objects in the same sentence, conjunctions

Spelling and punctuation, etc

Ways of organizing text

" Structure

All speeches should have a definite structure or format; a talk without a structure is a woolly mess. If you do not order your thoughts into a structured manner, the audience will not be able to follow them. Having established the aim of your presentation you should choose the most appropriate structure to achieve it.

However, the structure must not get in the way of the main message. If it is too complex, too convoluted or simply too noticeable the audience will be distracted. If a section is unnecessary to the achievement of your fundamental objectives, pluck it out. Sequential Argument

One of the simplest structures is that of sequential argument which consists of a series of linked statements ultimately leading to a conclusion. However, this simplicity can only be achieved by careful and deliberate delineation between each section. One technique is the use of frequent reminders to the audience of the main point which have proceeded and explicit explanation of how the next topic will lead on from this. Hierarchical Decomposition

In hierarchical decomposition the main topic is broken down into sub-topics and each sub-topics into smaller topics until eventually everything is broken down into very small basic units. In written communication this is a very powerful technique because it allows the reader to re-order the presentation at will, and to return to omitted topics at a later date. In verbal communication the audience is restricted to the order of the presenter and the hierarchy should be kept simple reinforced. As with sequential argument it is useful to summarise each section at its conclusion and to introduce each major new section with a statement of how it lies in the hierarchical order. Question Orientated

The aim of many presentations given by managers is to either explain a previous decision or to seek approval for a plan of action. In these cases, the format can be question orientated. The format is to introduce the problem and any relevant background, and then to outline the various solutions to that problem listing the advantages and disadvantages of each solution in turn. Finally, all possible options are summarised in terms of their pro's and con's, and either the preferred solution is presented for endorsement by the audience or a discussion is initiated leading to the decision. One trick for obtaining the desired outcome is to establish during the presentation the criteria by which the various options are to be judged; this alone should allow you to obtain your desired outcome. Pyramid

In a newspaper, the story is introduced in its entirety in a catchy first paragraph. The next few paragraphs repeat the same information only giving further details to each point. The next section repeats the entire story again, but developing certain themes within each of the sub-points and again adding more information. This is repeated until the reporter runs out of story. The editor then simply decides upon the newsworthiness of the report and cuts from the bottom to the appropriate number of column inches.

There are two main advantages to this style for presentations. Firstly, it can increase the audiences receptiveness to the main ideas. Since at every stage of the pyramid they have all ready become familiar with the ideas and indeed know what to expect next. This sense of deja vu can falsely give the impression that what they are hearing are their own ideas. The second advantage is that the duration of the talk can be easily altered by cutting the talk in exactly the same way as the newspaper editor might have done to the news story. This degree of flexibility may be useful if the same presentation is to be used several times in different situations. The Meaty Sandwich

The simplest and most direct format remains the meaty sandwich. This is the simple beginning-middle-end format in which the main meat of the exposition is contained in the middle and is proceeded by an introduction and followed by a summary and conclusion. This is really the appropriate format for all small sub-sections in all the previous structures. If the talk is short enough, or the topic simple enough, it can indeed form the entirity of the presentation. " -- todo summarize this

todo summarize this:

Other styles

The suggestions here are for my preferred mode of writing, 'informal prose with a goal of being easy to read'. This mode is not the best choice for all situations:


Style guides:

Abbreviated style guides:

Alternate style guides:

Misc specialized writing advice:

Rules for how to write in a basic/simplified form of English:

Other basic/simplified/controlled languages:

Automatically estimating how 'easy to read' a text is: