Guidelines for Good Sentences

  1. Nothing wrong with "you." Personal pronouns help us write clear sentences. Using nouns instead can be OK, but don't mix nouns and pronouns randomly. Compare: You must register for classes by Friday. The student must register for classes by Friday.
  2. Using "you" keeps us from tangling with the gender-specific third-person pronouns (he, she, him, her).
  3. Use "I" and "We" where appropriate
  4. Use "active voice" in your sentences. Compare: The customer must fill out the form. The form must be filled out by the customer. The form must be filled out.
  5. Write short sentences and paragraphs.
  6. Don't try to crowd all the information into one page. Layer content.
  7. Put the action in the verbs. Compare:
    • The Commission's recommendations for changes were few in number.
    • The Commission recommended few changes.
    • Or compare these:
    • Retention of these records for seven years is a requirement for licensees.
    • Licensees must keep these records for seven years.
  8. Don't inflate your language: (get, not obtain; before, not prior to; buy, not purchase; ask for, not request; next, not subsequent; end, not terminate; use, not utilize)
  9. And finally, where's the comma and the period go relative to the quotation mark? See Ben Yagoda's commentary.