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What is Vague Writing?

Vague writing stems from writers that have the inability to express exactly what they want to say. Instead of directly and clearly describing key points, such an author would use generalizations, avoid specifics and concrete naming, and prefers to make broad judgments instead of providing detailed facts and evidence.

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(Vague) My friend is a highly erudite and educated person.
(Strong) My friend has a PhD in nuclear physics from Howard University.

Why Should It Be Avoided?

Vagueness in writing negatively affects the comprehensibility of the text you are working on, because your audience will hardly understand what you intended to say. In addition, vagueness is a sign of being unprofessional; it also may be annoying to readers―especially for those who value precision and specifics.

How to Avoid Vague Writing

– Use descriptions if you need to convey your impression of an object, scene, or person. Instead of saying, “My new boss has a weird appearance,” for instance, you could write: “My new boss has purple hair and dark-red lipstick, and instead of a business suit, she wore jeans and a singlet.”

– When it is possible, use concrete names instead of talking about an object or person indirectly. Compare the following sentences: “When I was in the room, a guy whom I didn’t really know entered and started to distract me.” You might want to add more specifics to it, for example: “When I was reading The Return of the King in my room, Josh―a guy who lived next door and whom I didn’t know quite well―came in looking for my roommate, and distracted me.”

– If you are talking about qualities, specify them instead of simply mentioning that they exist.

(Vague) Hemingway was a great writer who wrote interesting books.
(Strong) Hemingway was an American writer whose vivid language and rich life experience portrayed through his works helped me write my own novels.

– Keep the golden rule in mind: “If you can cut it―cut it.” Reread your writing several times, and if you have doubts whether to cut a word or phrase, or not―cut it.

– Use active verbs.

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