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With every sentence you write, consider at least four questions:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? - Not sure this is that important, except for the more poetic intentions.

Plus two more:

  1. Could I make it shorter?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

Rules to rely on when instinct fails:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

* From “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell.