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Don't Over 'Utilize' Your Vocabulary

DZone's Guide to

Don't Over 'Utilize' Your Vocabulary

When you're writing, keep things as simple and consistent as possible. Don't get caught up in trying to impress readers, just focus clear communication.

· Writers' Zone
Free Resource

I've come to the conclusion that there are too many words in English.

In my job as a technical editor at GRAKN.AI, and as I read my daily quota of technology blogs, I often see articles that fall into the trap using a broad vocabulary at the cost of readability. I try to write and edit the copy I work on to remove words and complex terminology. It's a success when the article shrinks and the Hemingway readability index has gone down. Here is the process I use when I work on a draft to prepare it for publication. If you write technical blogs or documentation, you may find a few pointers to help you...and your readers.

Eliminate the Future

We don't need to say "In this article, we will discuss how to make biscuits." Why not, "In this article, we discuss how to make biscuits," or, "This article discusses how to make biscuits"?

Shorten the Sentences

Get rid of commas. Replace them with full-stops. Take away word clutter (like "will" above).

Don't Worry About Using the Same Word Several Times

Sometimes I see people contorting text to avoid using the same word in consecutive sentences. Here I am using it again. It's an easy word to understand, and using it is OK. It's better than introducing "utilizing" for no real reason because you feel vaguely guilty recycling the same word. Go ahead: Sometimes, repetition introduces a nice rhythm to your text.

Use Bullet Points

I'm not talking about writing all your articles as Buzzfeed listicles. But sometimes the key points of an article come across better as a list of statements rather than a string of sentences.

Draw Pictures

It's a cliche, but it's also true: a picture tells a thousand words, particularly to those people who think visually. When you have a key concept to explain, consider whether a graphic will enhance your point.

Don't Use Unnecessary Graphics

The flip side to the previous point. Some visualizations are pointless and leave your readers scratching their heads. Make it count!

Consider Your Audience

Who are they? Are they native English speakers? What are they trying to achieve? What problem are you solving for them? Be explicit about what your article is about so anyone setting out to read it will know in advance what they'll learn.

Adopt a Style Guide

If you follow a set of rules, you are rewarded with consistency, and your readers will thank you for it. I prefer The Economist's style guide, but it doesn't matter which you choose. (Editor's note: For the curious, DZone uses the Microsoft style guide, with any gaps filled in with AP style).

TL;DR? Here's a Summary

When I start an article, I try to explain what a reader will get from it in exchange for the time it takes them to read it. At the end, I like to summarise it, so even a skim reader gets a flavour of what it covered.

Above, I addressed the need to consider the audience before you start writing. Who are they and why will they be reading your article? Write that down at the start of your text and keep it in mind as you write. Keep your writing precise, readable and consistent, and use graphics where they help get your point across.

Topics:
writing articles ,style guides ,readability ,writers zone

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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