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4 Criteria for writing texts successfully

Writing texts
Whether while studying at school, in the world of work or in everyday life, you will always be faced with the need to write texts. When writing, it’s important to make sure you’re understood. In the 1970s, researchers at the University of Hamburg studied various criteria to determine what makes a text easy or difficult to understand. They developed what is called the " Hamburg Comprehensibility Concept ", which identifies four criteria which make texts readable: simplicity, structure/order, brevity/concision and challenging additions.

In this article, you will learn how to structure and write a text in an understandable and stimulating way.

Organisation and structure

Before you start writing a text, it's a good idea to make an plan. Write down all your ideas and keywords to include so that you don't forget anything while writing. Create a mind map to keep an overview, and think about the questions you want to answer in your text.

Once you have collected your ideas, you need to structure and organise them:
  • A good text follows a logical structure with a red thread and a sensible order. So avoid confusion!
  • Distinguish the essential from the less relevant information. The most important statements should be at the beginning of your text.
  • Make your running text lighter by adding short, relevant paragraphs, it makes it easier to read. You can also use subheadings to make it more enjoyable to read.
  • Stay consistent. Your text should be consistent and logical. This means that you use inclusive writing in the same way throughout the text, for example.
When you have collected and structured your ideas, you can start writing your text.

Simplicity and brevity

The most important thing in a text is to make it clear and easily understandable. You should read your text after writing it, and also ask someone else who doesn’t know the subject to read to it to see if they can understand the text, or if you need to add additional explanations. The following tips will help you to keep your text simple, short and concise:
  • Get to the point: Get straight to the point of your ideas and don’t embellish them unnecessarily. Stick to the basics and say what you mean. No more and no less.
  • Clear and concrete presentation: Do your sentences express what you want to say? Is your wording clear and understandable? Have you used examples when necessary to illustrate what you have explained?
  • Few adverbs and adjectives: Leave out any unnecessary adverbs, adjectives and filler words. Look for more precise verbs and nouns instead.
  • Understandable words: Use common words and explain technical terms or foreign words which aren’t immediately understandable.
  • Simple and clear sentences: Good writing is characterised above all by concise and short sentences. Respect the sentence order: subject - verb - object.
If you're looking for methods to better understand texts, check out our blog for articles on the SQ3R method and how to improve your reading comprehension.

Variation and stimulation

For your text to be widely read, it must not only be understandable, but also interesting, stimulating and entertaining. To achieve this, it’s a good idea to vary your text so that it’s both stimulating and eye-catching. Here are some ideas of how to go about this:
  • Short, simple sentences help understanding, but can also quickly become boring. So try to incorporate a few longer, easy-to-understand sentences to vary the pace of reading. You can also vary the structure of the sentences so it’s not too monotonous. It's the mix that makes the difference!
  • Introduce your personality or humour into the text to better convey feelings and emotions.
  • Avoid repeating words! Synonyms are the right tool for this; they make your text more varied and interesting. However, be sure to choose synonyms appropriately and wisely.
  • A good text should have impeccable grammar and spelling, so that readers take the author seriously.

Good to know

Like many things in life: Practice makes perfect! Even writing well is a matter of practice. Anyone who regularly works on texts (by reading or writing them) will eventually get a sense of good writing, expand their vocabulary and improve their grammar and spelling.

Finally, here’s some things to avoid when writing:
  • Complicated and long sentences with too much information.
  • Unexplained technical words or abbreviations as well as unusual expressions.
  • No main thread or structure, jumps around causing a lot of confusion.
  • Unnecessary filler words or phrases.
  • Monotonous, repetitive and dry sentences.
  • Abstract facts without clear representations or examples.
  • Unrelated sentences.

Bibliography: Hochschule Luzern: Technik & Architektur, Das Hamburger Verständlichkeitsmodell (14.12.2022).
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