Clarity—Clarity means saying what you have to say in an organized fashion. Many writers who have something to say and who arrange their information in a logical manner still have difficulty making their writing clear to the reader. To be clear, sentences must have proper grammar and punctuation, and the text must effectively develop general concepts into specific details. The writer should evaluate those details and remove any irrelevant information from the text. The reader needs only enough information to understand the concept, perform the task, or make a decision. Eliminate wordiness and jargon to further clarify your writing.
Completeness—Completeness in writing means that the topic is adequately developed with details, explanations, definitions, and evidence so the reader is not left with a vague idea of what is meant. In scientific, engineering, and environmental writing, describing a process is a large part of the documentation task. Process development is a step-by-step description of how something is done. If the purpose of the process is to give the reader an outline of the steps to get something done, less detail is needed. If you intend to teach readers how to perform the process, then complete, detailed steps must be provided; the exact order of the operation is essential; and supplemental descriptions may be needed to correctly perform the activity.
Coherence—Coherence means making a connection with your audience by ensuring that your sentences are logically related, are grammatically whole, and allow the reader to follow the train of thought. Your task is to present the relevant material coherently using logical sequencing in a structured fashion.
The following grammatical tools can help you build coherence into your writing:
- Active voice—using an active voice in your writing shows the reader the direct subject-verb relationship. Active voice flows more smoothly and leaves no room for ambiguity.
- Repetition—repeating keywords and phrases or using forms of the same words to selectively achieve a sense of connection in sentences and paragraphs. Being selective is imperative in using repetition. The writer must use of key words in key places to link and reinforce the main idea, rather than just repeat the same terms over and over again.
- Parallelism—using the same sentence structure in subsequent sentences and paragraphs. Parallelism uses the same pattern of words to show two or more ideas that have the same level of importance. Coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, however, therefore) are a tool to achieve parallel structure in your sentences.
- Enumeration—listing ideas in the text to clearly define sequential thoughts or events.
- Transitions—using conjunctions to link ideas that (a) are the same, (b) are different, (c) are in addition to the main thought, (d) show cause and effect, or (e) shift from general to specific thoughts.