Things to avoid

Plain writing communicates meaning accurately, immediately and effectively. Workplace writing is effective insofar as it contains information that is useful to the reader(s).


  • Research shows significant gains in productivity
  • Residents claim…
  • Rules should be flexible
  • Instead of writing "Substantial savings", write "savings of $25,000pa"
  • Instead of writing "A short report", write "a two page report"


  • The project is intended...
  • The data seem to support the proposition...
  • It would seem that...
  • First appearances suggest...
  • It may be that the reasons lie...


  • Visible to the eye
  • Rectangular in shape
  • Many in number
  • Future policy directions
  • First originated
  • A course for new beginners

Meaningless modifiers and qualifiers

Frequently, often, sometimes, really, generally, commonly, largely, to some extent (These require interpretation by the reader)

Dangled, mangled, and misplaced modifiers and qualifiers

Put modifiers and qualifiers as close as possible to the words to which they relate.

  • Trying to be a popular manager, rules were not followed and staff became dissatisfied.
  • The new computer was unacceptable to the director with limited memory.


Long winded expressions

  • At time of present writing = now
  • in the foreseeable future = soon
  • at this point in time = now
  • as of this present date = now/today
  • in view of the fact that = since


  • Ballpark figures
  • play hardball on this
  • touch base
  • likely to lose our shirt


  • Less than careful with the truth = untruthful/is lying
  • Seemingly unable to attend within time parameters = comes late


"This epoch-making project presents unique opportunities to showcase cutting edge advancements in modularised course delivery modes. It is technology driven on software that shakes hands with or downloads to other configurations".

Possibly insulting inserts

  • As anybody who has studied the question knows.
  • It is obvious to all but the least uniformed.

Archaic, technical, and/or rarely used words

"Lacuna” (definition)


Where acronyms must be used, include the name in full on the first occasion, followed by the acronym. Thereafter, use the acronym alone.

"The Interactive Satellite Learning Network (ISLN) has been developed to provide curriculum programs for schools in isolated areas. ISLN involves the distribution of television programs to specific locations."

‘-ise’ + ‘-wise’

  • Resource wise
  • staff wise
  • outcome-wise
  • policy-wise
  • Prioritise, maximise, strategise.

Overlong sentences

Making long sentences shorter is one of the simplest and most effective means to clarify meaning.

Instead of writing "Smith, a former Carlton ruckman, has already talked with Richmond and has also had discussions with Hawthorn, where he remains on the match committee, over this immediate future.",

Write "Smith, a former Carlton ruckman, has already talked with Richmond. He has also discussed his immediate future with Hawthorn, where he remains on the match committee".


Extravagant claims diminish the force of arguments and the credibility of those who make them.

Double negatives

Instead of writing "The decision not not to proceed is being reviewed", write "The decision to proceed is being reviewed".

Using words out of context and/or wrongly


Things to do
How to organise your writing