Grammar rules and style guides have several differences. One difference is their goals. Style guides have two goals that grammar rules are not always concerned with: meaning and clarity. These are two goals that you should have for your writing as well. Achieving clear and meaningful writing will help you create better articles for your readers.
Express Your Purpose through Meaning
Meaning is critical to writing. You need a purpose for your writing, or it will go nowhere very fast. It is possible to use a lot of words and say nothing at all. I see it all the time in business documents. You don’t want your writing to be the same way.
The best method to ensure your writing is saying what you want it to is slowing down when you write. It is common advice to write your first draft without stopping so that you can get words on the page. When you start your revisions, you need to take the time to rethink your word choices.
First, you need to lay out what you intend your article to say. Then, look at the phrases you used and think about what they mean. Do their meanings match your intent? Are they expressing what you want? It is easy to fall into routines when you write and use the same jargon, buzzwords, and trite expressions. By going through the thought process and challenging yourself to define the words, you can find better ways of saying what you want that will carry more meaning.
Promote Understanding with Clarity
Meaning and clarity are closely related and work together. You can use words that pinpoint your meaning, but they won’t fully do their job unless they are clear to your readers. Both you and your readers need to understand the meaning for the article to serve its purpose. Clarity, in conjunction with meaning, makes that happen.
The best way to achieve clarity is to be precise and concise. Don’t hedge around your meaning. Use words that will state it plainly, or as an editor would say, use plain language. If you bury your meaning in vague wording, jargon, or a long string of modifiers, the reader won’t be able to make sense out of it.
Being precise leans heavily on meaning. Try to find words that get close to the nuance of meaning you wish to convey. A thesaurus is handy for this purpose. You don’t want to get so specific that you use obscure words that the average reader has never heard, but you do want to use strong, vivid wording. It is a balancing act that requires thought on your part.
Conciseness will come from cutting out unnecessary modifiers, phrases, and dependent clauses. You are writing an article, not poetry. I’m reminding myself of this even as I’m telling you. I tend towards using long sentences full of phrases. You need a balance so that you don’t lose your author’s voice but still use minimal phrases so that your point is clear to your reader.
Meaning and clarity are two goals for you as a writer that work together to help you achieve better articles. Meaning will help you state your purpose to your readers, and clarity makes sure those readers understand that purpose. You can look to style guides, your style sheet, and common sense to help you develop the meaning and clarity of your writing.