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HALLMARKS OF GOOD WRITING 1  In writing reports, you should refer to a good manual of English grammar and writing style. See the Manuals of English Grammar and Writing Style section for recommendations and online guides. You should use the following criteria to guide your writing of all assignments. Clarity Clarity is the most important criterion of good writing. The reader should be able to understand quickly and effortlessly a written report. People will not read a report if they have to decipher its meaning. Some methods for increasing clarity include: 1. English can be an ambiguous language. Try to find the right word, not one that the reader could interpret to have a different meaning than the idea you are trying to convey. Strive to write sentences that readers can interpret in only one way. 2. In general, you should write in active voice. In a sentence written in passive voice, the subject is acted upon rather than acting. This is lifeless. For example the sentence, "The procedures are listed in a manual,” is passive (and dull). The sentence doesn't tell us who is listing these procedures. Rewriting this sentence to, "The assistant controller documents all procedures in a manual," identifies who is acting and thus, provides greater information to the reader. a. A good rule of thumb is to place the actor and action in the beginning of the sentence (often in the first five words). b. You should use passive voice sentences deliberately on the very few occasions when you want to emphasize what is acted upon rather than who is acting. For example, Tom Wicker once opened an article with the passive voice sentence, "President Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin today," because he wanted to emphasize the President (the object) not the assassin (the subject). c. You can use word processing software to help you find and rephrase passive voice sentences. The Checking Grammar, Spelling and Readability section below explains how to do this in Microsoft Word. 3. Each paragraph should be necessary to support the idea of the report. Topic sentences should capture one aspect of the report's idea for the paragraph. Each sentence in the paragraph must logically support the topic sentence. Paragraphs should be complete: you should fully develop the paragraph's topic. Arrange the sequence of sentences is some kind of order: time order (as in a narrative of what happened), space order (as in a description of a physical place), or logical order. Examples of logical order are cause to effect, effect to cause, general to specific, and specific to general. 4.
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