Cut repetition and wordiness
The Lincoln Library contains many rare books. The
books in the library are carefully preserved. The
library also houses a manuscript collection.
The Lincoln Library carefully preserves many
rare books and manuscripts.
Cut Formulaic Phrases
• at the present time
• at this point in time
• in this day in age
• because of the fact
• due to the fact
• are of the opinion
• have the ability to
• in spite of the fact
• last but not least
• prior to
• concerning the matter
• although, despite
Cut References to Your Intentions
In the humanities, readers want to READ about your
topic and are not interested in explanations of your
organization of your text and your own planning. For
In this essay, I intend to prove. . . In
the next few paragraphs I hope to show. . In
conclusion, I have demonstrated. . . What I
want to say here is . . .
Cut Redundant Words or
Trim words that repeat an idea expressed by
another word in the same phrase:
consensus of opinion
As a general rule, use vigorous sentences with
vivid, expressive verbs. Avoid bland verbs of the
verb BE (be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been)
or verbs in the passive voice.
Ask “Who’s Doing What?”
About Subject and Verb
Let the subject of the sentence perform the action, and
use expressive verbs.
The mayor’s approval of the new law
was due to voters’ suspicion of the
concealment of campaign funds by his
This sentence contains three abstract nouns (approval,
suspicion, and concealment) formed from verbs (approve,
suspect, and conceal) as well as five prepositional
phrases: of the new law, to voters’ suspicion, of the
concealment, of campaign funds, and by his deputy.
To revise the previous sentence,
ask, who’s doing what?
Who’s Doing What?
the mayor approved
the voters suspected
his deputy had concealed
The mayor approved the new law because voters
suspected that his deputy had concealed campaign
Try Not to Begin Sentences with
There or It
For a lean, direct style, rewrite sentences
in which there or it occupies the subject
position (as in there is, there were, it is, it
was). Revise by using action verbs and
subjects that perform the action.
There was a discussion of the health
care system by the politicians. [Who’s
The politicians discussed the health
Avoid PAssive voice
The passive voice tells what is done to the
grammatical subject of a clause (The turkey
was cooked too long by Matilda.) Extensive
use of the passive voice makes your writing
dull and wordy. When you can, replace it with
active voice verbs.
The problem will be discussed
thoroughly by the committee.
The committee will discuss the problem
Put New Information at the End of a
Sentence for Emphasis.
Memoirs are becoming increasingly popular. Readers
of all ages are finding them appealing. JARRING
Memoirs are becoming increasingly popular. They
appeal to readers of all ages. TOPIC CHAIN
In the revised version, the subject of the second sentence, they,
refers to the subject of the previous sentence, memoirs; the new
information of “readers of all ages” comes at the end where it
receives more emphasis.
Put New Information at
the End of a Sentence for
If you have a topic of old
information, new information
comes at the end of the sentence for
a strong interesting note to
emphasize the point. Don’t let a
sentence be weak.
Women often feel silenced by men,
according to one researcher.
According to one researcher, women often
feel silenced by men.
Readers of academic prose in
English usually expect
writers to analyze
and question their sources,
to commit to an informed
point of view, and to
provide convincing reasons why that
view is valid. For
writers, commitment means. . .
to assume a critical stance
to take a position
Critical thinking does not mean criticizing negatively. It
means examining and analyzing information with an
open mind. Critical thinking is an essential first step.
Do not assume because something is in print that it is
Develop a system of inquiry: ask questions, reflect on
the position of the authors you read, consider statements
that point out an alternative view.
When you think critically, your writing takes on your
own voice. It becomes a reflection of your own thinking
rather than a regurgitation of others’ opinions.
Commit to Critical Thinking
Commit to a Point of View
Your background reading, critical reading, and
drafting will help you discover and decide upon a
perspective and thesis. Once you have made those
decisions, COMMIT to that point of view.
Avoid ambivalence and indecisiveness in
language: maybe, perhaps, it could be, it might
Aim for language of commitment: as a result,
consequently, of course, demand, should, must.
Use language of commitment, however, only after
thoroughly researching your topic and satisfying
yourself that the evidence is convincing.
Commit to a Confident Stance
Convey to the reader an attitude of confidence
in your own abilities and judgment. Readers
WILL NOT be impressed by apologies. One
student ended an essay this way:
I hope I have conveyed something of interest about
this author. I would like my reader to note that this is
just my point of view, even if a unique one.
If you really have not done an adequate job of
making and supporting a point, try to gather
more information to improve the paper instead
of adding apologetic notes.
Word choice, or diction, contributes a great deal to the
effect your writing has on your readers. Do not give
readers puzzles to solve.
•Use a dictionary and thesaurus
child: kid, offspring, progeny
friend: pal, buddy, chum, mate
jail: slammer, cooler, prison
angry: ticked off, furious, mad, fuming
Choose Your Words
Use figurative language for effect, but use it
Simile: an explicit comparison
with both sides stated.
America is not like a blanket.
Metaphor: an implied
comparison, without like or as
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Avoid Biased and Exclusionary
mailman mail carrier
policeman, policewoman police officer