Editing at the Sentence Level Help (page 2)

Updated on Apr 25, 2014


Avoid Unnecessary Repetition

Repetition can be found even in short phrases. The list that follows contains dozens of such phrases that can clutter your essay. Most of them contain a specific word and its more general category. Why state both? The word memoriescan only refer to the past, so you don't need to say past memories. We know that blue is a color, so describing something as blue in color is repetitive and therefore unnecessary. In most cases, you can correct the redundant phrase by dropping the category and retaining the specific word.

Some of the phrases use a modifier that is unneeded, because the specific is implied in the general. For instance, the word consensus means general agreement. Therefore, modifying it with the word general is repetitive. Similarly, mathematics is a field of study, so it does not need to be modified with the word field. You can tighten up your writing, saying it well one time, by eliminating wordiness.

Avoid Unnecessary Repetition

Avoid Overly Informal and Overused Language

Words and phrases that are too formal, too obscure, or overused don't belong in your essay.

The last thing you want to do is turn off or offend your reader. Since it's difficult to know what kinds of language your audience may find offensive or in poor taste, err on the side of caution by not including any language considered even mildly obscene, gross, or otherwise offensive. This includes scatological and sexual terms, and words such as butt (as in "I worked my butt off "), hell (as in "hotter than hell"), God (as in "oh, God!"), and damn.

Clichés should be avoided not only because they are too informal, but also because they are overused. Your writing must be in your own voice, without relying on stale phrases such as one step at a time; no news is good news; have a nice day; when life gives you lemons, make lemonade; and no guts, no glory.

Slang is nonstandard English. Its significance is typically far removed from either a word's denotative or connotative meaning, and is particular to certain groups (therefore, it excludes some readers who won't understand it). Examples include blow off, canned, no sweat, and thumbs down (or up). It is also inappropriate and offensive to use slang terms for racial or religious groups.

Buzzwords are a type of slang. They're words (real or made up) that take the place of simpler, more direct words. They are, at best, pompous, and at worst, confusing. And, like other forms of slang, buzzwords don't belong in your essays. Examples include resultful (gets results), suboptimal (not the best), guesstimate (estimate), requisite (necessary), potentiality (potential), and facilitate (help).

Think Twice before Opening Your Thesaurus

Big words won't win points with your readers. Aim to sound like yourself, not to impress with your knowledge of ten-letter words. Here are three reasons to stop looking for and using so-called big words.

  1. They sound pretentious (you're supposed to sound like you, not a politician or chairman of the board).
  2. They can sound ridiculous (by using words that are not in your normal vocabulary, you run the risk of using them incorrectly).
  3. They may appear as a "tactic" (your reader might think you are trying to add weight with words because you are worried your essay isn't well written or that your ideas aren't worth reading).

To the point:I decided to keep it simple by packing only those things that I could carry in one suitcase.

Thesaurized: I determined to eschew obfuscation by packing only those things that I could transport in one valise.

To the point:At my summer job, I had the chance to learn about Information Technology as it relates to engineering.

Thesaurized: At my summer employment, I had the fortuity to obtain IT-related information as it pertains to the engineering field.

Don't assume your audience shares your interests or familiarity with technology; write instead for a reader who has a broad knowledge base that is not expert in any subject. That means explaining anything your reader might not be familiar with, without talking down. Examples include ISP (Internet Service Provider), screenagers (teens who are online), mouse potato (technology's answer to the couch potato), and I-way (information superhighway).

  • Vulgarisms

  • Clichés

  • Slang

  • Buzzwords

  • Technobabble

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