top of page

Style tips

Combine sentences.
• Take two sentences and make a compound sentence.
• Insert adjectives or adverbs to combine sentences.
• Use a prepositional phrase to combine sentences.
• List items in a series to combine sentences.


Vary sentence beginnings and length.
• Use a variety of parts of speech and grammatical forms to vary sentence beginnings.
• Short sentences have three to six words. Long sentences can have as many as 30 words or more.


Eliminate weak verb-adverb combinations.
An adverb modifies verbs, adjective or other adverbs, answering where, when, how and to what extent. Eliminate adverbs by identifying which question the adverb answers.
• The teacher looked menacingly (menacingly answers how) glared at the disruptive student hooligan.
• He foolishly invested in bad speculated in real estate.


Avoid "to be" verbs.
• Change the be verb to a strong verb:

Example: is afraid of = fears.

• Eliminate the be verb by writing one or more showing sentence.

Example: Alligators are mean.
The alligator, angry at being disturbed, lurched forward and swallowed the decoy. Unsatisfied, the grouchy gator swam circles around the boat and hissed at the hunters.

• Combine sentences to eliminate the be verb.
Example: The inefficient time manager is unfulfilled. He heads to bed, disappointed, despite having finished his to do list.
The inefficient time manager heads to bed, unfulfilled, having checked everything off on his unprioritized to do list.


Use strong verbs.

Example: “ate lunch quickly” = “devoured my lunch”

Pronouns and antecedents must be clear.

Too many pronouns can cause confusion. It’s better to repeat a name or noun than to write unclearly.

bottom of page