The mechanics of effective writing

Much debate surrounds what effective writing is. Whilst I may side on the more free flowing functional style of writing, where words spill over one another in an attempt to convey a feeling, I nod with respect to those whose controlled sentence structure prance the grammatical lines with perfection. Irrespective of which side of the fence your writing may lean, being accurate with your vocabulary, spelling and punctuation is just as important as utilising the correct style and linking methods for a piece of writing.The intangible qualities of flair and creativity float uncertainly around the robotic mechanics of effective writing, but are as integral to it as the basic requirement of utilising a capital letter to begin the sentence.

Correct usage of grammar is important for both speaking and writing and something that native speakers of a language think little about. Its an easy trap for many emerging writers to write as they speak. Unfortunately, and perhaps a topic for future discussion, most people speak using simplistic grammar and incorrect sentence structure. When writing this down, every error stands out, which is why it’s essential to be familiar with the rules.


The key for your message to be conveyed and understood by your audience is through the mindful choices of vocabulary. Overuse of niche acronyms, buzz words and slang may marginalise the appeal your writing has with a wider audience, but also may make it more appealing to specific groups.


The English language has a number of strange spelling rules where the connection between how a word is spelled and how it is pronounced is less clear-cut than in many other languages. Whilst autocorrect can take care of many goofs, the dictionary, and its evil companion the Thesaurus aught to be desk-side pals in your writing arena.


The correct usage of punctation marks helps the reader understand the intonation and meaning of the text. With so many amusing memes on the internet, I thought it more appropriate to  leave stressing the importance of punctuation to a pair of well-regarded writers.

“We have a language that is full of ambiguities; we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and elusive, poetic and modulated; all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places. Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking. If it goes, the degree of intellectual impoverishment we face is unimaginable.” 

― Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

“When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly — with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow.

 In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard.” 

― Russell Baker


Simply explained, linking is the glue which adheres all of your ideas into a cohesive text. Poorly formed paragraphing can distance and confuse the reader. Linking information across sentences and paragraphs develops an idea into a strong topic or argument.


There are a few guiding principals for written style and language used. The more formal the text or dialogue is, the more formal the language will be, the more likely it is to use passive structures and inanimate nouns as the subject of a sentence.  Conversely, the more informal or free flowing a piece of text is, the more likely it is to use verbal structures, active structures and humans as the subject of sentences.

The mechanics of writing covers the established conventions in which words are gathered together to convey meanings. Strong skills in the mechanics and grammar allows writers to get their message across in a clear and understandable way , but can still sound robotic. There is a fine line between being sentence perfect and losing the flair of spontaneous images.

When a reader encounters what they believe are mistakes, they will find more fault with your wiring, primarily through misinterpretation of your message, but in some cases, through frustration of being exposed to bad spelling, clumsy structure and poor grammar. It is important to remember that these mechanics are simply tools to mould words under our command. These tools help a writer beat and hammer out an idea and nail down a topic. It takes an artist to bring all the elements together to create something memorable, beautiful with words that touch the soul.


4 thoughts on “The mechanics of effective writing

  1. Well said and good reminders.

  2. Thanks Annie. As you know, the benefits your beta reader can bring will help this list too. Then you go to the editor!

  3. I heard someone say a long while back that people should write the way they talk. At first I thought, what a wonderful idea. I won’t have to worry about structure, vocabulary, or spelling. Yet, after studying a couple of my favorite fictional stories, I realized that writing needs many more rules than speaking does.

  4. Very well written, Annie. The first mark of an amateur is nearly always poor spelling, grammar, language mechanics, and punctuation. You’ve addressed all of these. The problem is that most of those who break the rules don’t recognize themselves.

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