Don’t

Be ambiguous

Sentences that can be read in several different ways may be misleading.

Vivian worked on the development stage of the project and is now part of the policy group with responsibility for legislation.

The sentence reads as though the policy group is responsible for legislation. In fact, it’s Vivian.

It should read:

Vivian worked on the development stage of the project and is now part of the policy group, where she has responsibility for legislation.

Make sure that there’s no ambiguity in your writing, and that your meaning is clear.

Use repetition

Avoid using words or phrases more than once in the same sentence (strictly speaking, you shouldn’t repeat within paragraphs).

Similarly, don’t repeat phrases such as ‘the Short-term Output Indicators’ throughout a document. You could refer to them as ‘the Indicators’, or use a standard abbreviation (but try to avoid using too many abbreviations and acronyms).

Also avoid using words that repeat something already implied in the same sentence (otherwise known as tautology).

I might possibly
The Quarterly Report is produced quarterly

Use mismatched words and phrases

This is where a list of items doesn’t match the verb used in the sentence.

This book examines the plans, decisions and talks held during the conflict.

The verb “held” refers to “plans, decisions and talks”, but you can’t “hold” a plan or a decision. To solve this problem, split the sentence into two parts and add another verb.

This book examines the plans and decisions made, and the talks held…

Use confusing sentences

Don’t use sentences where a phrase qualifies the wrong part of a sentence.

Surrounded by enemies on every shore, Hitler reasoned that the British would soon surrender.

The sentence implies that Hitler was surrounded by enemies, which is incorrect. This is called a “dangling participle”.

The sentence should read: “Hitler reasoned that the British, surrounded by enemies on every shore, would soon surrender.”

Use jargon

Always use plain English and be wary of any words to watch or words not to use