The clearer your purpose, the better your writing is likely to be. The purposes of nonfiction writing may be classified as expressive, expository, and persuasive. These purposes are often combined in an extended piece of writing. Expressive writing emphasizes the writer’s subjective feelings and reactions. Expository writing focuses the reader’s attention on the objective world. Persuasive writing is intended to influence the reader’s attitudes and actions. Most writing is to some extent persuasive; however, it is usually called persuasive if it is clearly arguing for or against a position.
Audience and Occasion
Keep in mind the audience and the occasion for which you are writing. Your understanding of audience and occasion will determine your choice of words, examples, details, and tone. Tone is a reflection of your attitude toward your subject. It must be appropriate to your purpose, audience and occasion.
Arrangement and Organization of Thought
Thought units—whether single words, a sentence or paragraph, or longer sequences—must be orderly. You must aim for continuity in words, concepts, and thematic development from the opening statement to the conclusion so that readers (i.e., graders) will understand what you are presenting.
Continuity can be achieved in several ways. Punctuation marks contribute to continuity by showing relationships between ideas. They cue the grader to the pauses, inflections, subordination, and pacing normally heard in speech. Neither overuse nor underuse one type of punctuation, such as commas or dashes.
Continuity is also achieved through the use of transitional words. A pronoun that refers to a noun in the preceding sentence serves as a
transition and also helps avoid repetition. Other transition devices are time links (then, next, after, while, since); cause and effect links (therefore, consequently, as a result); or contrast links (however, but conversely, nevertheless, although, whereas).
Smoothness, Clarity, and Logic of Expression
Aim for clear and logical communication. Sometimes when you spend much time close to your own material, you lose objectivity and may not see certain problems, especially inferred contradictions. Avoid setting up ambiguity, inserting the unexpected, omitting the expected and suddenly shifting the topic, tense, or person. These devices can confuse or disturb graders.
Economy of Expression
Say only what needs to be said. Tighten overly long papers by eliminating redundancy, wordiness, jargon, evasiveness, circumlocution, and clumsiness. Weed out overly detailed descriptions, gratuitous embellishments, elaborations of the obvious, and irrelevant observations or asides. Use no more words than are necessary to convey the meaning. Direct, declarative sentences with simple, common words are usually best. Short words and short sentences are easier to comprehend than long ones (although variety in sentence length can be helpful for readers). Similar precautions apply to paragraph length. Single-sentence paragraphs may be abrupt. New paragraphs provide a pause for the grader – a chance to store one step in the conceptual development before beginning another. If your paragraphs run longer than a page, you are probably straining the grader’s thought span. Look for a logical place to make a break or reorganize the material.