Your style is how you express yourself is writing. Each of us has our own style and it depends on:
- the words we use;
- how we arrange words into sentences and paragraphs;
- how we use punctuation.
We have said earlier that the main aim of a report is to communicate information to your reader. Therefore, it is essential you present the facts in a simple, straightforward manner. Use words and terms which your reader will understand.
When you write you may be tempted to use long, complicated words and phrases that you would never use when you speak. This is not unusual - everyone does it to some extent. Bad style is characterised by sentences that are too long, ambiguous or incomprehensible. Many people believe, mistakenly, that such verbosity adds authority to their writing. However, if you write in this way you will have failed to use your S-A-B-R-E .
If you are writing long awkward sentences and misusing words, this could be a sign that you are not yet ready to write the report. You may still have information to gather and ideas to sort out.
Research into the “readability” of long sentences showed that only 5% of readers understood a sentence of 30 or more words on their first reading.
However, sometimes, to express your thoughts properly, you will need to write longer sentences. Furthermore, if your writing is composed entirely of short simple sentences, it will appear clumsy and childish.
Nowadays there is a move towards using short, familiar words influenced by advertising, popular literature and tabloid newspapers. An extreme view states that long words are bad, short ones good. It’s not that easy in practice. Short words are simple and direct. However, longer words allow you to be more precise or subtle. Words are never wholly synonymous.
For example, are these pairs of words synonymous?
Sweet or Fragrant
Precinct or Area
Recommend or Praise
Spread or Extend
Words which are said to mean the same are often applied differently:
- She has a sweet tooth
- The rose has a fragrant smell
You could say, “The rose has a sweet smell”, but would you say, “She has a fragrant tooth”? So, always have a good dictionary and use it frequently.
Reports also can be spoiled by unnecessarily long phrases and clauses that make the writing sound pompous and long-winded. Such phrases could easily be reduced to one or two words. Unfortunately, many of them are in common usage and we may use them out of habit without thinking.
S - Structure
A - Appropriate words
B - Brevity
R - Relevance
E - English and Grammar