Originally posted June 25, 2019

UPDATED Dec. 12, 2020

You do not need to struggle with writing. In fact, effective writing should be as natural as talking. Unless you are writing for artistic or rhetorical purposes, the best way to improve your writing is to use the method of “effective writing.” This approach has one simple rule: say what you have to say as efficiently as possible. To this end, effective writing is purpose-driven and above all concise. Keeping this in mind makes writing a clear, easy, and natural process.


Effective writing is always organized around a central purpose. If you do not know why you are writing you should not write at all. Persuasion seeks to move the reader to action; demonstration musters evidence to support the truth of a thesis; exposition seeks to explain and describe a person, place, or event. The first step in effective writing is to define your purpose.

Once you have defined your purpose, stick to it with iron discipline. Do not deviate from your purpose because it is the organizing principle of composition. Everything in your composition should be directed to your purpose. Develop your composition by thinking about each paragraph as a distinct point supporting your overall purpose. For example, if you are writing to persuade you should provide your readers with reasons to act, appeal to the interests and passions of your audience, and finally back up your claims with credible authorities and relevant illustrations.

Writers get lost and confused when they lose sight of their purpose. Focus on your purpose and everything else should follow logically and naturally. If you do so, you will avoid a lot of frustration. More importantly, it will help you to achieve the second key to effective writing, namely, concision.


Have you ever slogged through an overly wordy text and asked yourself, “why don’t you just make your point!?” What you are experiencing is a failure to be concise.

Concision is important for two reasons. First, writers who value concision are more likely to write simply and directly. Writing with maximal efficiency forces you to eliminate excessively complex sentences and pointless detours; in other words, it helps you to get to the point as quickly and clearly as possible. Second, excessive words and unnecessary sentences often mislead readers and make it difficult for authors to maintain their focus. By contrast, concise writing makes it easier for readers to get the point and encourages writers to stay on task.

Think of concision as efficiency with words. Every word, every sentence, and every paragraph should support the purpose of the composition as simply as possible. Any word, sentence, or paragraph that does not significantly strengthen the message must be ruthlessly eliminated. If you can say it with fewer words, do so. This does not mean that authors must only write flat, terse sentences. If an evocative adjective or descriptive phrase adds value to your composition, include it. But above all, strive for an economy of words.

Effective writing requires neither genius nor heroism, but it is important. In fact, strong communication skills are important for professional life, intellectual growth, and responsible citizenship. You can write effectively. Be concise, focus on your purpose, and get it done as efficiently as possible, and you will become a strong and effective writer. Write well; write effectively!

For more philosophical content from Dr. Smith, consider purchasing his new book, Understanding Modern Political Ideas. In this text, Dr. Smith examines modern political ideas in the light of classical philosophy and develops an approach to reforming the American Republic based on a classical and Christian understanding of the human person.