[I have borrowed, translated and adapted these tips from a French website. That explains the references to French authors, in case you were wondering. These tips are intended for use in writing for the web, but would be useful in many other types of writing as well.]
1. Thou shalt write short sentences.
You are not Proust! So do not write sentences of more than one or two lines. If you hesitate between several constructions, always choose the one with the fewest words. Your texts will be more rhythmic.
Tip: exchange semicolons for periods.
2. Thou shalt limit thyself to subject, verb and object.
The subject + verb + object scheme is the simplest grammatically. It is instantly recognizable and understandable to the reader. So avoid complex grammatical constructions, subordinate clauses, interpolations and parentheses within the same sentence.
Tip: turn most subordinate clauses into independent sentences.
3. Thou shalt write one idea per sentence.
One idea per sentence, one point per paragraph, one subject per article. Don’t try to say everything at once, at the risk of drowning your reader. Prioritize your ideas and start with the most important.
Tip: If your article is too long, divide it into several articles grouped by folder or series.
4. Thou shalt simplify thy vocabulary.
You do not write to amuse yourself but to make yourself understood. Don’t try to dazzle your readers with exotic words or literary style. Favour simple words known to all.
Tip: use only words that you know how to spell.
5. Thous shalt translate jargon.
You don’t need to eliminate all trade or professional jargon, but ensure the first occurrence of such a word is translated into plain English, including all acronyms and words from other languages. Not only will your readers thank you, but it will be easier for search engines to find your page because you will broaden your semantic field.
Tip: imagine you are writing for your grandmother.
6. Thou shalt avoid negations.
It is forbidden to forbid! It is not always easy (as in this article which intends to be educational), but avoid negative terms as much as possible. Opt instead for positive constructions, more involving and more direct. Flee double negatives that need to be read twice to get the meaning.
Tip: always replace “do not hesitate to do this” with “do this”!
7. Thou shalt avoid the passive voice.
Better to write “The cat eats the mouse” than “the mouse is eaten by the cat.” Not only does the passive use more words than the active form (7 words against 5), but it is also more complex to analyse. Therefore reverse passive sentences, transforming the object into subject.
Tip: choose action verbs like create, produce, decide, etc.
8. Thou shalt avoid adjectives and adverbs.
“Journalists (…) who want to use an adjective come see me in my office. Those who will use an adverb will be shown out the door,”wrote Georges Clemenceau in a memo while he was editor of L’Aurore. Years have passed, the media have changed, but the counsel remains valid.
Tip: first remove all useless instances of “true” and “genuine” from your texts.
9. Thou shalt avoid the subjunctive.
Avoid the subjunctive: limit yourself to the indicative. Also avoid the tenses we learned at school like the pluperfect, future anterior, etc. Try to stick to the present, the past, the imperfect, the future and the imperative.
Tip: use the infinitive as much as possible.
10. Thou shalt read thy article out loud.
Proofread your text carefully before publishing it. Locate the long sentences, overly complex constructions, etc. Check that you have applied all the above rules.
Tip: re-read aloud to identify difficult to read sentences. Flaubert called it the gueuloir test, you will see, it works!
(I presume Gueuloir was Flaubert’s invention; it’s not found in any dictionary. Gueuler means to speak very loudly, to yell.)
If you read French, the original article is found at: http://editoile.fr/10-astuces-pour-ecrire-plus-simplement/