How To Write Well (Mechanics)

Good writing has a lot to do with simple mechanics. I love the idea that writing comes down to understanding and mastering the component parts of a piece: paragraphs, sentences, parts of speech, punctuation, and things like that. Here are some basics on the mechanics of writing, and below I’ll include one of the best passages of writing I’ve ever read. Skip down to it if you like. 

Clarity: Good writing is clear and easily understood by the reader. It avoids ambiguity and conveys ideas in a straightforward manner. Use clear and concise language, avoiding jargon or unnecessary complexity. Get feedback to see how others are reading what you’ve written.

Grammar and Spelling: Proper grammar and spelling are essential for effective communication. Proofread your work carefully to ensure correct punctuation, sentence structure, and word usage. Use grammar and spell-check tools as aids. If this is a weakness for you, I recommend the old classic, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (the same E.B. White who wrote Charlotte’s Web.

Organization: Well-organized writing presents ideas in a logical and coherent manner. Develop a clear structure with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Use appropriate headings, subheadings, and transitions to guide the reader through your work. It’s that simple

Cohesion: Good writing maintains a sense of cohesion, where sentences and paragraphs flow smoothly from one to another. Use appropriate transitional words and phrases to link ideas and maintain coherence.

Variety in Sentence Structure: Varying sentence structure adds interest and rhythm to your writing. Avoid using overly long or complex sentences exclusively. Incorporate shorter, simpler sentences as well to enhance readability.

Active Voice: Active voice brings clarity and directness to your writing. It places emphasis on the subject performing the action. Passive voice can be used when necessary but in my opinion should be used sparingly.

Vocabulary and Word Choice: Choose words that are appropriate for your target audience and purpose. Use a wide range of vocabulary to express ideas precisely and effectively. However, avoid using unnecessarily complicated or obscure terms that may confuse the reader.

Conciseness: Good writing is concise, conveying ideas efficiently and without unnecessary repetition or wordiness. Eliminate unnecessary words and phrases, keeping your writing focused and to the point. In my writing class, this is a constant and typical issue. I myself have been guilty of it. 

Audience Awareness: Consider your target audience and tailor your writing to their needs and expectations. Use language and examples that resonate with your readers, ensuring your message is effectively communicated. Haven’t thought about your target audience? Reedsy has a helpful article here.

Revision and Editing: Effective writing often requires multiple revisions. Review your work critically, looking for areas of improvement in clarity, organization, grammar, and style. Edit for coherence, flow, and overall effectiveness. I highly recommend no less than 20 beta readers for a book before you send it to final editing and publishing. 

More on Good Sentences and Paragraphs


The following is from a book I’m writing on writing a Christian book: 

Good sentences are brief, simple, and clear. I don’t always write good sentences, but I want to. My favorite authority on this is a journalist called William Zinsser. In his wonderful book, On Writing Well, he writes in Chapter 25 about writing “as well as you can.” In that chapter he discusses the influence his parents had on his writing style. I want to include some of that chapter here, not because of what he says, primarily, but because of how he says it. I’m afraid you haven’t seen great writing yet in this book, and I want you to see a master at work.  

Originally I wasn’t meant to be a writer. My father was a businessman. His grandfather had come from Germany in the great immigration of 1848 with a formula for making shellac. He built a small house and factory in a rocky field far uptown in Manhattan–at what is now 59th Street and Tenth Avenue–and started a business called William Zinsser & Company. I still have a photograph of that pastoral scene; the land slopes down toward the Hudson River, and the only living creature is a goat. The firm stayed at that location until 1973, when it moved to New Jersey.

For a business to remain in the same family on the same Manhattan block for more than a century is rare, and as a boy I couldn’t escape the naggings of continuity, for I was the fourth William Zinsser and the only son, my father’s fate was to have three daughters first. In those Dark Ages the idea that daughters could run a business as well as sons, or better, was still two decades off. My father was a man who loved his business. When he talked about it I never felt that he regarded it as a venture for making money; it was an art, to be practiced with imagination and only the best materials. He had a passion for quality and had no patience with the second-rate; he never went into a store looking for a bargain. He charged more for his product because he made it with the best ingredients, and his company prospered. It was a ready-made future for me, and my father looked forward to the day when I would join him.

But inevitably a different day arrived, and not long after I came home from the war I went to work for the New York Herald Tribune and had to tell my father I wasn’t going to carry on the family business. He accepted the news with his usual generosity and wished me well in my chosen field. No boy or girl could receive a finer gift. I was liberated from having to fulfill somebody else’s expectations, which were not the right ones for me. I was free to succeed or fail on my own terms.

Only later did I realize that I took along on my journey another gift from my father: a bone-deep belief that quality is its own reward. I, too, have never gone into a store looking for a bargain. Although my mother was the literary one in our family magpie collector of books, lover of the English language, writer of dazzling letters-it was from the world of business that I absorbed my craftsman’s ethic, and over the years, when I found myself endlessly rewriting what I had endlessly rewritten, determined to write better than everybody who was competing for the same space, the inner voice I was hearing was the voice of my father talking about shellac.

My goodness! If you didn’t think that was great, I don’t know what to tell you.

If you’d like to talk to me about your own writing, I’d be happy to meet with you on Zoom. As a writer and the teacher of an online writing program, it helps me immensely to speak with writers to find out what kinds of struggles they are facing as they write. Contact me on the contact page of You can also leave a comment on this article. I promise to respond.

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