PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE STYLE
At various times soldiers will have to communicate their intention through writing. Putting our thoughts on paper is important, but just as important is to ensure that what we have written clearly communicates our intentions. Our understanding of “how to” organize our thoughts into coherent sentences and paragraphs can help ensure that we communicate clearly. The objective of this lesson, then, is to help you as a writer sharpen your understanding of the Army writing style by briefly reviewing the structure and function of word groups (phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs) to assist you in writing effectively.
Accuracy. Your work should represent only essential and accurate facts free of bias or distortion.
Brevity and completeness. You must keep to essentials. Your writing should be brief and to the point. To cover a subject completely, while keeping the length of the paper to the absolute minimum requires careful analysis and probably several revisions. If necessary, attach explanatory facts and figures as annexes. The shorter your paper, the less your chance for error. On the other hand, never sacrifice clarity to gain brevity.
Clarity. You must make a special effort to keep your writing clear and fully understandable. Your readers must be certain of your intent. Select words and phrases that express your exact meaning and can only have one interpretation. Using familiar, precise words contributes to clarity in writing.
Coherence. Coherence is the logical development and arrangement of a subject. You can achieve coherence by first thinking the subject through and seeing it as a whole, then arranging the various parts logically and harmoniously. When writing on a complex subject, use an outline to achieve coherence.
Unity. Your writing must adhere to a single idea. You should apply this principle not only to each sentence and paragraph but also to your entire paper. If you have more than one subject to discuss, prepare a separate paper on each subject.
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