Write in Color

write-in-colorBecause English is such an elastic language, drawing enthusiastically on many linguistic strands, it is relatively easy to heighten the impact of what we write through our choice and placement of words. While “purple prose” should be avoided, a text of such monotony that readers lose interest is equally undesirable. A diverse vocabulary and varied sentence structure will help prevent this fate, as will a good combination of broad principles and specific examples, allowing readers to move between the forest and the trees of your subject. And remember, even the driest and most convoluted topics can be enlivened and simplified through figures of speech.



Vivid writing sometimes calls for nothing more than a few well-chosen adjectives. Take a leaf from F. Scott Fitzgerald ’17, who captured the flavor of Princeton’s eating clubs in his autobiographical novel, This Side of Paradise, calling “Ivy, detached and breathlessly aristocratic” and “Tiger Inn, broad-shouldered and athletic.”

Analogies can greatly enrich a text – from simple similes (“Chairing the committee was like conducting a tone-deaf choir”) to extended metaphors (“The orange bubble in which our students live is reassuringly self-contained but also potentially limiting. That is why it needs to be pierced from time to time”).

Contextualize abstract figures. For example, the force of the following statement can be increased by adding the italicized words. “Between 2009 and 2010, 66,768 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the United States – more than the total number of American deaths in the Vietnam War.”

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