Ross Penhall

Bad flow kills your reader’s attention, even if your idea is brilliant. But you can make immediate improvements on the flow of your writing if you apply these simple principles I’ll demonstrated below. I suggest picking at least one element and use it to rewrite a sample of your work. Repetition creates new instincts. You’ll write well automatically, and then edit even weller.

To create good flow, writers combine well-chosen structure, logical coherence, and a cadence that sounds eloquent and effortless, even if they don’t use big words.

Here’s what I mean, starting with what not to do.

When it’s not flowing

Bad flow in a paragraph uses too many periods. Periods create short stops. This makes them sound choppy. Choppy is good sometimes. It’s bad if all your writing sounds choppy. Abrupt. Like that kid in school who liked to poke you. Over and over. For no reason. You don’t need to use periods all the time. You could use commas instead. Stop hyperventilating.

Bad flow might not always be due to sentence structure or punctuation. Sometimes things don’t flow due to lack of coherence. Because periods imply a full stop, too many periods make your paragraph sound choppy. Also, logical coherence is important. That’s why you should also edit your work later on. Wait. What was this paragraph about again?

In other cases, which I will now mention, overly wordy writing, that is, the unnecessary use of excess words that serve to draw out ideas so that the reader uses extra brain power in order to follow what you’re saying, can cause your flow to be hampered. In such cases, I believe, it is useful for the writer to employ the use of active voice, avoid the word “that” and verbs ending with “ing,” and also to avoid the verb “to be.”

A word to the wise: avoid cliches like the plague and thwart the intrinsic provocation to reckon too abandonedly on the thesaurus.

Good Flow Understands and Appreciates How the Average Person Reads – and Makes Sense of What She’s Reading.

Good flow is logical in two main ways: it establishes an order, and then follows through on that order.

Other features of good flow include linking separate paragraphs together. This can be achieved with transitional words and repetition of the topic. These are simple ways to bring unity and coherence to your writing.

Of course, logic isn’t the only marker of good flow. As I’ve demonstrated in the Bad Flow section above, cadence is important, too. So, in order to create an interesting rhythm to your writing, you need variety. Don’t be afraid to use short sentences. And long ones. Together.

Apply the same principle to your paragraph lengths. Throw in a short paragraph after a long one. This technique is especially handy for blogs, a genre in which most readers skim.

A little white space over here creates pause. Now they’ve got to read this line.

And this one.

Good flow is easy to establish, with a bit of editing and attention to what makes us enjoy the process of reading. Principles like coherence, unity, and variety make for great art and compelling literature. Give it a try on your next project and see the difference for yourself.