Avoid Awkward Writing: Tips for Clear and Effective Copy

Clear, concise, and effective writing is essential for any copywriter. Avoiding awkward sentences can make a significant difference in how your prospects perceive and engage with your writing.

Avoiding awkward phrases is an essential aspect of effective communication. To communicate well, you have to write clearly – whether you’re a student working on an academic paper or a content marketer posting a blog article.

In this article, we’ll share tips on how you can communicate your message in a compelling way, and how to avoid awkward writing.

Understanding awkward writing

What is awkward writing? 

Awkward writing refers to sentences or paragraphs that are difficult to read or understand. These sentences may sound stilted or confusing for various reasons, such as poor word choice, incorrect sentence structure, or the use of unnecessary words.

Awkward writing can also be characterized by a lack of clarity and coherence. It may contain redundant or irrelevant information, or use complex sentence structures that confuse the reader.

This kind of writing can make it difficult for readers to grasp the intended message. In some cases, awkward phrases can even change the meaning of a sentence, leading to confusion or misinterpretation. In most settings, awkwardly written messages may make you appear unprofessional and unpolished.

What makes something awkward?

As mentioned above, there are several common reasons why a piece may read awkwardly. Some of these are:

  • Wordiness: Using too many words to convey a message can make a sentence or phrase difficult to read. This can be avoided by using concise language and eliminating unnecessary words.
  • Poor sentence structure: Convoluted sentences or unnecessarily complex sentence structure can make it difficult for readers to understand your writing. Sentences should be structured in a clear and logical manner.
  • Incorrect word choice: Choosing the wrong word can lead to confusion. This commonly happens when we use words that are not commonly used by our target audience. Sometimes, for multilingual writers, some nuances in the language may be lost when writing in our second language.
    To avoid this, always proofread your work so you can weed out any words that don’t belong in your piece. You can also work with an editor who can help polish your work.

To avoid awkward writing, it’s also important to pay close attention to the language that we use. We should strive to use clear, concise language that succinctly conveys our message. 

Grammar and word choices

When it comes to avoiding awkward phrases, grammar, and word choices play a significant role. By paying attention to these two elements, writers can ensure that their writing is clear, concise, and effective.

Common grammar mistakes to avoid

There are several common grammar mistakes that writers should avoid. These include:

  • Subject-verb agreement: Ensuring that the subject and verb in a sentence agree in number is crucial. For example, “The dog barks” is correct, while “The dog bark” is incorrect.
  • Pronoun usage: Pronouns should be used correctly to avoid confusion. For instance, “He gave the book to her and me” is correct, while “He gave the book to her and I” is incorrect.
  • Comma Splices: A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined by a comma without a coordinating conjunction. For example, “I went to the store, I bought some milk” is a comma splice. To correct it, you can either add a coordinating conjunction (e.g., “I went to the store, and I bought some milk”) or use a semicolon (e.g., “I went to the store; I bought some milk”).

Choosing the right words

The words you choose can make or break your writing. The right words can engage your reader, evoke emotion, and convey your message effectively. On the other hand, the wrong words can confuse, bore, or even offend your reader.

For example, consider the difference between “fearful” and “terrified.” While both words convey a sense of fear, “terrified” is much more specific and evocative, painting a clearer picture in the reader’s mind.

When selecting words for your writing, consider your audience and purpose. If you’re writing for a professional or technical audience, you may need to use more formal, technical language. For instance, you might use “utilize” instead of “use.”

It’s also important to choose words that are specific and precise. Avoid vague or ambiguous language that can leave your reader guessing about your meaning. For instance, instead of saying something is “nice,” consider using a more descriptive word like “delightful” or “charming.”

Whenever appropriate, you can also use sensory words that appeal to the five senses. Sensory language can make your writing more vivid and engaging, drawing the reader into your world. For example, instead of saying something smells “good,” try using a more descriptive word like “fragrant” or “aromatic.”

Finally, be mindful of the connotations of your words. Some words carry negative associations that can influence how your reader perceives your message.

For instance, instead of saying someone is “cheap,” consider using a more neutral word like “frugal” or “economical.” In some cases, we might also hurt underrepresented communities when we inadvertently use expressions that have racist origins, so it’s important to be thoughtful when writing.

By avoiding common grammar mistakes and choosing the right words, writers can ensure that their writing is clear, concise, and effective.

Sentence structure

Sentence structure is an important aspect of writing that can make a significant difference in how easily a piece of writing is understood. Awkward sentence structures can be difficult to read and may obscure the meaning of the text. In this section, we will discuss some strategies for avoiding awkward sentence structures.

Avoiding repetition

Repetition can make a sentence sound awkward and can distract the reader from the intended meaning. For example:

Awkward: “I like going to the beach. The beach is my favorite place to relax.”

Improved: “I like going to the beach to relax.”

Awkward: “In the article, the writer discusses the importance of reading. Reading is an essential skill that everyone should learn.”

Improved: “In the article, the writer discusses the importance of learning to read, an essential skill for everyone.”

Awkward: “The company’s website is easy to navigate. You can navigate the website to find the information you need.”

Improved: “The company’s website is easy to navigate, making it simple to find the information you need.”

Using active voice 

Using active voice can make a sentence more clear and direct. In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action, while in passive voice, the subject receives the action. For example:

Awkward: “The ball was thrown by John.”

Improved: “John threw the ball.”

Awkward: “The decision was made by the committee.”

Improved: “The committee made the decision.”

Awkward: “The book was written by Jane Austen.”

Improved: “Jane Austen wrote the book.”

Active voice is often more concise and easier to understand than passive voice.

Avoiding mixed constructions

To avoid mixed constructions, it is important to ensure that the grammatical structure of a sentence remains consistent throughout. For example:

Awkward: “The reason why I am here is to talk to you about the proposal that was submitted.”

Improved: “I am here to talk to you about the submitted proposal.”

Awkward: “She decided to clean the house, and making dinner was next on her to-do list.”

Improved: “After cleaning the house, she planned to make dinner.”

Awkward: “He said that he would study for the exam, but that there wasn’t enough time.”

Improved: “He said that there wasn’t enough time to study for the exam.”

To summarize, using clear and concise sentence structures is important for effective writing. By avoiding repetition, using active voice, and avoiding mixed constructions, writers can create sentences that are easy to understand and communicate their intended meaning clearly.

Vary sentence length

Using sentences of different lengths can help to add rhythm and flow to your writing. Shorter sentences are more direct, while longer sentences can convey more complex ideas. However, be careful not to make your sentences too long, as this can make them difficult to read and understand.

Other tips and tricks

Avoiding uncommon words

Using uncommon words can make your writing difficult to understand and can create confusion for your readers. To avoid this, choose words that are familiar to your audience and appropriate for the context of your writing. 

By using common words and avoiding jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to your readers, you can keep your writing clear, engaging, and easy to understand. For example:

Awkward: “Her prodigious intellect was evident in her phlegmatic demeanor.”

Improved: “She was very smart, but she seemed calm and unemotional.”

Awkward: “The restaurant’s epicurean menu items often feature exotic ingredients.”

Improved: “The restaurant’s fancy menu items often feature unusual ingredients.”

Awkward: “He expatiated upon his propinquity to the famous author, hoping to impress his colleagues.”

Improved: “He talked a lot about how he was friends with the famous author, hoping to impress his colleagues.

By avoiding uncommon words and using familiar, everyday language, you can make your writing more accessible to your readers. 

Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test 

The Flesch-Kincaid readability test is a tool used to assess the readability of a piece of writing. It uses a formula to calculate the approximate grade level required to understand the text. The Flesch-Kincaid test takes into account two factors: sentence length and the number of syllables in each word. The test provides a score between 0 and 100, with a higher score indicating that the text is easier to read.

Using the Flesch-Kincaid test can help ensure that your writing is appropriate for your intended audience. 

For example, if you’re writing a blog post aimed at a general audience, you’ll want to aim for a lower Flesch-Kincaid score, which means that your writing should use shorter sentences and simpler words. You can use the free Hemingway app for this.

Here are some examples of how the Flesch-Kincaid test can be used to improve the readability of your writing:

Awkward: “The multitude of individuals who possess an inclination toward the theatrical arts has experienced a significant uptick in recent years.” (Grade 16)

Improved: “More people are interested in theater these days.” (Grade 7)

Awkward: “The cumulative effect of such a measure would be to engender a paradigm shift within the industry, thereby resulting in a more efficient and streamlined production process.” (Grade 10)

Improved: “This change will make the production process more efficient.” (Grade 8)

Awkward: “In order to ascertain the veracity of the claim, an investigation into the matter was undertaken by the relevant authorities.” (Grade 13)

Improved: “The authorities investigated to see if the claim was true.” (Grade 4)

Using the Flesch-Kincaid test can help you ensure that your content is accessible to your readers. This can help keep your writing engaging and relevant.

Reading your writing out loud

Finally, one piece of advice that we have is to proofread your work when you’re done – by reading it aloud. Reading your writing out loud can help you to identify awkward phrases or sentences that don’t flow well. It can also help you to pick up on any grammatical errors or typos that you may have missed while reading silently.

Read Next: 11 Examples of Awkward Phrasing and How to Fix Them

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