Style writing a readable sentence

Bottom line

Write more the way you talk—with ordinary words, a variety of punctuation, personal pronouns, and contractions.

Let's start with a quiz. Choose "a" or "b":

How have you produced most of the words in your life?

a. by writing them b. by speaking them

For most of us, the answer is "b": we've spoken many more words than we've written.

"What does that have to do with writing?" you may ask.

Everything. You see, in plain English, words and sentences are more like those in spoken English. Spoken English is the language we're most comfortable with—the language that works for us.

That's why most professional writers use spoken English when they write. Check the editorial section of your newspaper. What do you find there?

If your paper is typical, you'll find the editors use spoken English. Look in one of the most popular papers in the world: the Wall Street Journal. You'll certainly find spoken English there.

In fact, the biggest headline on page one of every Wall Street Journal is "What's News—." The contraction makes the tone informal, and the dash leads the reader into the text that follows. Informal tone and awareness of the reader are two common characteristics of plain English.

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