Recently, I've found George Orwell's rules extremely helpful, and I think all writers should think about them. Going through my own work, I've found if I follow these rules, I really do get that extra sparkle.
If you don't know them, here they are:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. This one forces you to really think about bringing something as fresh as a daisy to your writing. Oops, sorry, that's a bit of a cliché, isn't it? Seen that one before. What could I use instead? As fresh as a newly-laundered handkerchief? As fresh as ... well, you fill in the blank.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do. I'm a bit of a culprit about this. Going back through my work, I can usually find quite a few places where I can sound less pompous!
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. This is about over-indulging in those descriptions. Briefer is usually better, especially when it comes to adjectives.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. This gives much more immediacy to your writing. Not 'the ball was kicked into touch', but 'he felt the ball slap hard against his foot. The kick went exactly where he aimed it.'
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. I used to work in the corporate world, where I frequently found the story I had written in what I'd hoped was a clear, interesting way came back from the managers who had to approve it littered with jargon. I think they thought it made them sound more important, but they seldom thought about the poor people down the line who had to wade through this stuff and almost certainly wouldn't have understood it. Certainly, they wouldn't have found it engaging. Simple is best.
That's it really. Oh - he had one more:
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Go for it!