Many struggle as they try to determine how to articulate better in writing. Frustration may mount as a writer stares at an empty page or a blank computer screen, especially if an impending deadline looms on the horizon.
Articulate communication requires people to express their thoughts and concepts clearly and effectively. In the spoken or written word, people share ideas and information so that their intended audience fully grasps the essence and importance of their message.
Below are 10 helpful tips that will allow you to articulate more effectively in your written communications:
1. Read Relentlessly
You learn from other writers by reading their works. More than merely absorbing their words, you consider their style and reflect on their techniques. You also evaluate whether the writer has effectively communicated their intended message.
Find writing styles you enjoy and emulate them. Learn from them, enrich your grasp of the language by considering how authors you enjoy successfully put words onto paper. Break away from your subject-area comfort zone, broaden your horizons, and you may find a new way to articulate things you never considered before.
2. Keep Your Topic on Target
Some people remember writing outlines to satisfy a teacher for an assignment long ago. Others tossed their outlines and tried to improvise, with mixed results. However your writing gets from draft to finished product, find the best way within your skill set to keep your topic on target.
One way to focus on how to articulate better in writing is to force yourself to write frequently and edit aggressively. Consider the time you set aside for writing practice in a similar way to the commitment you make to any hobby or habit-changing behavior. Put a topic at the top of the page and think of points that either support or challenge the arguments you have outlined.
Editing your work allows you to think about the message you wish to share. Questioning your choice of words permits you to assess how effectively you have built your case.
What do you want the reader to get after seeing the final product? Have you kept your eyes on that prize?
3. Consider the Audience
“The thought process can never be complete without articulation.“—Stephen King (1947 – ) horror and suspense author
Effective writing requires your ideas, perspectives, and thoughts to leave your world and enter the space of another person. If the words you select do not serve as a bridge between you and your audience, your prose will not reach them in a useful way.
When considering how to articulate better in writing, remember an often-repeated adage: Think before you speak. Frame your thoughts, think of the words that best express the message you want to communicate, and understand the nature of your audience.
If you plan to share an explanation or new information, focus on clarity and sequence. If your narrative seeks to solve a problem, look at causes and effects or analyze risks and benefits in clear language. If a single document must reach a variety of audiences, think of the best approach to reach the widest audience with the least ambiguity.
4. Know Your Preferred Path
“When articulation is impossible, gesticulation comes to the rescue.”—William Safire (1929 – 2009), journalist and author on linguistics
You may choose a direct path on some occasions, while selecting a more scenic route at other times. If you have a random way of organizing concepts and think in abstractions, how do you compose that well-ordered sequential narrative your boss expects?
Rather than trying to change yourself overnight, take inventory of your strengths and areas you hope to improve. Knowing the most comfortable path for you at this moment allows you to find ways to diverge from the familiar. This is true whether you change the path by a few steps or take an entirely different direction.
5. Listen to Yourself and to Others
“If the tongue had not been framed for articulation, man would still be a beast in the forest.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), poet, essayist, and philosopher
Verbal and written communication differ. You enjoy conversations with family and friends in the vernacular. A polished, edited, and formal tone prevails in professional communications.
When thinking about how to articulate better in writing, you go beyond considering your intended audience and knowing your preferred path: First, you listen to your words as you frame your narrative and outline your arguments. Then, you consider how your pitch, prose, tone, and emphasis could be interpreted by others.
Similar to watching how other writers have evolved, listening to your words and those of others as you read them improves your writing.
6. Choose Conciseness and Clarity
Use as many words as you need to communicate your message, but avoid stuffing your narrative with superficial fluff. A writer who employs tightly-written, concise language reaches the widest audience with the most success.
Avoid big words unless necessary. Ornamental prose may obfuscate and miscommunicate. While fancy phraseology might please pedants, such language could alienate or frustrate those with limited language skills.
One way for a writer to learn how to articulate better in writing is to value conciseness and clarity: stay focused on the topic you must address, know that every word matters for those pressed with time, and add a little window dressing sparingly and effectively, when appropriate.
7. Translate Words and Actions
“A new language always reflects a new point of view, and the gradual unconscious popularization of new words, or of old words used in new ways, is a sure sign of a profound change in people’s articulation of the world.”—Allan Bloom (1930 – 1992), classicist and philosopher
Consider that some of your readers may not have American English as their native language. Others may have spoken English since childhood, but learned their tongue with a different accent, and nuanced differences in spelling and phraseology. Those who come from other linguistic cultures and think primarily in languages other than American English need to translate your words into their lingua franca.
Learning how to articulate better in writing requires you to assume that the reader of your work may have to translate your message into a different language. Knowing this in advance will reinforce the importance of crafting clear and concise narratives.
Some people express their thoughts differently. They may be better at speaking than writing, or at using visuals, movements, or music to express themselves. As you compose your narratives, consider the linguistic limitations your readers may experience, as well as the diverse ways they absorb information.
8. Value the Verve of Verbs and Vocabulary
“Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it.”—Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019), editor and novelist
English is a rich language with an abundance of verbs that describe all types of action. Rather than using a simple verb such as ‘TALK’, a writer could select ‘SPEAK’, ‘DISCUSS’, ‘CONSULT’, ‘DICTATE’, or ‘EXPRESS’ to illustrate actions with greater accuracy or depth.
Go beyond the omnipresent verb ‘TO BE’ by selecting a verb that connects the reader more closely to the action: For example, replace ‘I AM FRUSTRATED BY DEADLINES’ with ‘DEADLINES FRUSTRATE ME’.
American English includes a wealth of nouns, adjectives, and phrases available to enhance your narrative. Keep your narrative simple enough for your intended audience, but use descriptive words that best illustrate the things you wish to introduce or portray.
9. Paint a Powerful Picture
Think of your narrative as a masterpiece you place upon a canvas. What type of picture do you hope to paint in your reader’s mind?
Everyone has a painting, song, image, or other item that sticks in their memory. Effective articulation in writing also leaves an impression on the reader. Similar to the way an artist or painter understands the color wheel, a writer should understand that the palette of language includes grammar, vocabulary, narrative format, and comprehension.
10. Witness Your Wittiness
“Innovation requires articulation.”―Walter Isaacson (1952 – ), writer, journalist, and educator
Your writing is similar to a recipe for a dish that one creates. You may follow the recipe precisely, putting together a predictable dish with a formulaic feel. Or, similar to that favorite recipe that adds flavor, spiciness, or sweetness, you may infuse some wittiness into your words.
Wit, in the sense of adding mental cleverness, perhaps with a bit of humor, takes time to master. Your effort to learn ways to infuse witticisms will brighten and enlighten your narrative. You may have to step outside of your comfort zone as you consider ways to innovate your writing.
Creating your distinct writing style will take time and effort. The more you read, write, edit, listen, and understand your path at this moment in time, the more articulate your message will become to your readers. Take the first step on this journey today!