So you’ve finished a draft of your essay. It’s time for another look. Try squinting your eyes. Weird, I know. But it helps you see any places where there are lots of short words. There’s nothing wrong with short words, of course, but when lots of them gather together like flies on a horse’s back, it is sometimes a clue that your writing needs cleaning up. Look for words such as of, in, on, for, to, as and by. Search for it, this, that and which. Look for be, is, has and was. Your sentence may be contorting itself in over-complicated ways: ‘It is clear that the transformation of this policy in new ways that worked for the poor was one of the goals of this government, on which it hoped that it would be reelected.’ Now swat those flies: ‘The government’s changes in policy were targeted at helping the poor, and at being reelected.’ Cleaner and clearer, no?

James McConnachie
25 October 2018