The Characteristics of Effective Language

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Language gives us the opportunity to convey meaning. Unless you expect people to understand various tones of grunting, using words effectively makes communication much easier to comprehend.

Say What You Mean

Unless you've become a recluse or taken to a solitary life on Mars, at some point or another, you'll have to use language to express yourself. How you choose to express yourself is, of course, entirely up to you, but the purpose for that expression should be received in a manner that is conducive to appropriate meaning or true to what you're attempting to express.

There are six components or characteristics of effective language. Keeping these things in mind will help you write effectively. Like all aspects of writing, it's crucial to determine the purpose (why are your writing) and audience (who are you writing for). After you've considered this, you can focus on writing effectively by keeping the following characteristics in mind. A simple way to accomplish this is to keep two things in mind.

1. Get to the point.

2. Choose your words carefully.

Get to the point

First you have to make a decision. Who are you writing for or communicating with? Determine how formal the writing needs to be; whether you should take a formal or informal approach. Formality in your writing helps you make the appropriate connection to your audience. Be considerate of your audience, and keep in mind if you are writing a formal or informal piece.

Be constructive. Write openly without belittling or criticizing your audience. Also, It's natural for people to take offense to blame, even if they are to blame, so writing in an accusatory manner will often turn your audience away. For that reason, sometimes it's best, especially with formal writing, to write in a third-person point of view. And it's just as likely for an audience to ignore you if you don't respect the topic you are writing about. If you don't care about what you are writing, it will be obvious to your audience and they won't care either. Consider the following:

There's no reason for you to misunderstand what I'm trying to convey unless you're not listening.

Not everyone absorbs things the first time they hear them. It might be possible that you're better at absorbing information through another medium.

The second sentence offers understanding and is compassionate to the audience, so the audience will be more likely to consider this and not disregard anything else you have to say.

Choose your words carefully

The most important aspect of effective writing is clarity. The audience must be able to comprehend your message, and you accomplish this by writing clearly and in a way that's easy for the reader to understand. It's the responsibility of the writer to offer the appropriate meaning behind their work. Leaving interpretation to the audience only increases the chances that an appropriate meaning is not conveyed.

Clarity is often dependent on being specific. Being specific with your word choice eliminates ambiguity. Ambiguous or confused meanings are often attributed to evaluative adjectives: good, bad, ugly, pretty, etc., so whenever possible, increase the clarity of your writing by being specific and avoiding abstract words. Use concrete language or words that will help create a vivid mental image for your reader. Take the following example:

Smoking is bad for you.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account