How to Write Elegantly
When you tend to express your thoughts in a clear and organized manner, your speech or writing seem more logical. Besides, when they say that a person speaks or writes elegantly, it means that he/ she can communicate the message across in short and concise sentences that are easy for understanding. Elegant writing is definitely not about flowery and lengthy sentences that lead to confusion in the process of understanding. Here it would not be prudent to run to a hasty conclusion that when one uses long and complicated sentences, he/ she has a rambling mind. Still, when one uses a clause after a clause, and when a sentence is crammed with conjunctions, then it is definitely necessary to simplify and reorganize such writing. Clear and elegant writing is a must when you want to convey a clear message to your readers and let the core message flow into the readers' minds.
Asking how to write elegantly? If you are a non-fiction writer, then elegant and clear manner of writing should be your top priority. When writing non-fiction, the author should persevere the main aim - to make readers understand the sense and idea of writing and to respond to it. Actually, that's the very reason of writing non-fiction. Consequently, to get readers' response, it is necessary that they understand what you say. As such, make sure you express your ideas clearly and provide ample supporting evidence and reasoning.
Elegant Writing Is a Great Instrument for Clear Delivery of Ideas
Writing is an instrument that is used to convey ideas, reasoning, arguments, and supporting evidence. With the help of writing, you may make readers agree or disagree with you, convince them in something or, on the contrary, refute commonly help opinions. At the same time, your writing on the whole might inspire and motivate readers or encourage them to do something. If readers remember you as an author and remember specific ideas that you express in your writing, it means that you are successful in what you do. There are authors whose writing is a definite masterpiece for many readers: they trace sentence structure, vocabulary choice, the use of idioms, phrasal verbs, synonyms, and so on. With such rich and elegant writing, readers can not only get some information but also enrich their vocabulary.
To draw readers' attention to the matters you explore in your writing, you have to write in an elegant way. This is a great piece of advice not just to non-fiction writers but to everyone who writes from time to time (regardless of whether it is an essay, a report, a review, or an article).
Clarity and Simplicity: That's What Makes Writing Elegant
You always create a piece of writing for a specific purpose. When one says that a piece of writing created by someone is elegant, it means that it conveys a complicated idea in a clear, distinct, and succinct way. As a rule, the idea is expressed in the simplest manner possible. A piece of writing cannot be called elegant when it delivers a message in a confusing way and when writing cannot be easily understood. Moreover, another important point that distinguishes successful (elegant) writing from poor one is that the former keeps readers' attention on the ideas conveyed rather than the manner of writing as such.
When something is elegant, in other words it is refined. When something is refined, it is distilled so that it does not contain any irrelevant or unnecessary components. When it comes to writing, the more complex it is, the harder it is for readers to understand it and to get the idea of what you write about. When writing is clear, we can call it refined: it takes no challenge or effort for a reader to get to know what you mean.
Elegance in Writing Style
Grammatically correct sentence structures make writing elegant but it is far more than grammar that makes writing elegant. Elegant writing should be important in terms of clarity and informative purpose. If you are just a beginner in academic or non-fiction writing and would like to know how to master your writing skills, check out the following general guidelines on how to reach elegance in writing:
- Avoid slang.
Slang belongs to colloquial speech used in daily communication. When you use the same vocabulary in writing that you use in daily speech, it makes writing rather poor. Good writers, on the contrary, write differently from the way they communicate daily. One of the strategies to improve written communication is to use a variety of alternatives to commonly used words. Such expanded vocabulary will make your writing elegant and rich.
Writers are encouraged to use different types of dictionaries to enrich their writing and modify their ordinary writing style a bit. For example, a thesaurus can be of great help to find out synonyms for commonly used words. Just agree, it would seem really awkward if you repeat the same word some 30 or more times in your article or an essay. Besides, thesaurus will help get even the most subtle nuances in meaning of certain words. For instance, you might think that words "convince" and "persuade" are absolute synonyms but actually they are not. You use "persuade" with an action (i.e. persuade a person to do something), whereas you use "convince" for ideas/ opinions (i.e. you convince a person of some idea/ opinion, etc.).
Moreover, a dictionary of collocations is useful when you want to know which word suits better in a certain context of with a specific word. With the help of this dictionary, you will also get to know nuances in meaning, sphere of usage, and so on.
Another type of colloquial usage that you should be aware of is the usage of first- and second-person pronouns (I, we, you). Normally, they are not used in academic writing. In academic essays, it is not acceptable to use "I" and to present personal opinions unless it is an opinion essay. Another important thing to remember: when you use many "I"-statements, your writing does not provide an impression of being credible and trustworthy.
The same way, the use of second-person pronoun "you" to mean "anyone" may seem too personalized. Therefore, avoid it if you want your writing to be elegant. There are some options how "you" can be replaced. First, it is advisable to use "one" meaning anybody with its other modifications (one's). Second, you might just use "anyone," "someone," "everyone," etc. Third, you may just paraphrase the sentence entirely to avoid personalized structures.
- Avoid spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors
Spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes are inherent in any writing. Even if you think that you have perfect English and you are proficient in academic writing, you should carefully check your finished essay or article for mistakes and typos. You might use online help as spell check and grammar check. Such software helps you trace mistakes in sentence structures and as such you can eradicate sentence fragments or lengthy constructions.
Another piece of advice on how you can check your spelling and grammar is to ask a friend of yours to read the paper. As a rule, you are got used to your style of writing and it is totally understandable that you cannot always trace the mistakes that you make. Therefore, your paper will need some fresh editing from another person.
- Avoid redundant words/ words with no specific meaning/ words that are merely used for logical emphasis
In oral communication, we frequently use words that bear no actual informative meaning, such as "like," "let me think," "just like this," etc. In speaking, these words are used to draw attention to the topic or idea that we will introduce soon. Therefore, such words are used for verbal emphasis. In written communication, we do not normally need such "attention-drawers" so try to avoid them as they just distract attention from the idea you intend to convey and do not make your writing elegant.
- Avoid repetition and rephrase words and phrases that are hard to understand
You frequently have a mission to explain something complicated or to convey an idea that is rather complex for general understanding. As such, the best technique in such situation is to paraphrase it in other words. If you rephrase it in a simple way in the same sentence, please use "that is" before the actual paraphrasing. If you feel that the sentence will become too long if to provide rephrasing in the same sentence, then begin a new one starting with "in other words."
Still, this strategy cannot be regarded as a recommended one in all cases. Try to formulate your ideas in a clear and succinct manner from the start.
- Simplify your sentences
Many students feel that elegant writing is complicated writing. However, elegant writing denotes clear and understandable writing wherein the ideas are easy to comprehend and understand. Therefore, make sure to simplify the sentences where possible, especially if some of them are too long. If you write too many long sentences, it would be hard for your target audience to trace the logical beginning and ending of the sentence.
As such, to provide an elegant piece of writing, follow a few of the following simple rules:
- Interchange short sentences with long ones;
- Avoid misplaced modifiers, dangling modifiers, and run-on sentences;
- Follow the rule: if a sentence can be split into two, three or more, it is better to do so;
- If a noun and a verb phrase can be rephrased by a verb alone or a simple phrase, then rephrase it.
- Avoid overusing "this"
Often writers use "this" to refer to something written in the previous sentence. Still, if a few ideas have been mentioned, it becomes difficult for a reader to get to understand what exactly "this" denotes. As such, it is preferable to add a noun denoting a specific phrase or notion. Besides, when you refer to something specific, you might simply add what you mean after "this," for example, "this rule," "this trend," "this idea," etc.
- Paraphrase commonly used phrases and words with more specific and unusual ones
There are many words with a general meaning or multiple meanings that sometimes it is hard to denote from the context what exactly is meant. So, in such cases, it is better to use more specific words to pinpoint the clear idea. Often, this strategy can turn a plain and general sentence into a more elegant and clear one.
- Prefer active voice to passive
When you tend to use passive voice in your sentence structures, it may often not be clear for readers who/ what you mean. In passive voice, you normally use the verb "to be" in the required and appropriate tense and a past participle of another verb that bears the central meaning. Still, in some sentences, it is crucial to inform the readers who the actors of specific action are. So, it is advisable to indicate who/ what does the action.
All in all, elegant writing is definitely not about writing in long and complex sentences. What is valued in elegant writing is how you can convey a complicated idea in simple terms. As such, in elegant writing, the way of communicating the idea across should be clear and succinct, and its core purpose should be to make readers understand and comprehend the idea without any difficulties.