Acronym To Help Your Writing

The following is an acronym that came to me after reading William Zinsser’s very helpful book, On Writing Well. It helps me when I edit my writing — I read my article, blogpost, paper, etc. and go through each letter. (I realize this may not work with poetry. That’s its own game).

V.A.A.N.S.

Verbs

Use active verbs and the active voice. Avoid the passive voice (ex. “the door was shut” in contrast with “I shut the door.” The latter gives a much stronger, clearer image).

Adverbs

Many writers use these as decoration and it bugs me. Many times they’re not needed, because there is often a verb that will do the job of both the verb and the adverb (ex. “he sheepishly cowered into the corner” — “sheepishly” is not needed, “cowered” does just fine on its own).

Adjectives

These, also, are often used as decoration. Try to use adjectives only where they’re needed, and use them correctly.

Nouns

Find strong ones. Don’t use “ones.”

Syllables

I try to keep my words at four syllables or fewer, unless a longer word is fitting and necessary. More than four is when the brain gets bored.

Write simply, with thought and creativity. Don’t decorate.

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