September 19, 2014

Writing: Conciseness

Make your words count. Don’t muddy your writing with jargon, unclear construction and repetition.

REDUNDANCIES AND WORDINESS

Mutual cooperation cooperation
needless to say then why say it?
Completely destroyed destroyed
truly angry irate
Could care less couldn’t care less
consensus of opinion consensus
refer back refer
thinking to myself thinking
at the present time now
despite the fact that although
very hungry famished
really tired exhausted
perfectly happy content
so silly ridiculous

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTENSIFIERS

Avoid overused intensifiers such as: Very, Really, Truly, So, Completely, Totally, Positively, Perfectly.

Re-write for conciseness and description. For example:

SENTENCE FRAGMENT:

A group of words lacking one or more of the following: a subject, a predicate, a complete thought (e.g, a dependent clause).

  • Although he passed the test.
  • “Now his concern is to be a normally functioning human being again.
  • Without the headaches, dizziness, memory loss and lethargy that have been part of his life for too long.”

RUN-ON SENTENCE:

Lacks proper punctuation e.g, Comma Splice:

  • The professor dismissed the class, the students cheered.

Options to fix run-ons:

1) Create two sentences: The professor dismissed the class. The students cheered.

2) Use a semi-colon: The professor dismissed the class; the students cheered.

3) Use a coordinating conjunction: The professor dismissed the class, and the students cheered.

OVERSUBORDINATED SENTENCE:

Caused by several dependent clauses or one long dependent clause at the start of a sentence. Problem: delays main idea.

  • Even though I felt sick and discouraged at the thought of taking the exam, I passed the LSDT.

PASSIVE & ACTIVE VOICE

The “VOICE” of a sentence indicates the form of the verb.

PASSIVE VOICE: The subject is acted upon by the verb.

  • The test was passed by the student.
  • The meeting was led by the president.
  • The play was canceled.

ACTIVE VOICE: The subject is performing an action. Think: Subject-Verb-Object

  • The student passed the test.
  • The president led the meeting.
  • The director canceled the play.

NOTE: Use of the verb to be (e.g., is, was) does not necessarily mean the passive voice.

  • She was managing the store. (active)
  • The store was managed by her. (passive)
  • She was tired. (indicative)

TIP: Avoid unnecessary introductory phrases and clauses

  • It has been shown by numerous studies that studying improves your chances of passing the LSDT.
  • Numerous studies have shown that studying improves your chances of passing the LSDT.

CORRECTING PASSIVE VOICE:

  • Find the verb in the sentence
  • Ask who or what is performing the action.
  • Construct the sentence to that the “actor” (subject) performs the action.

Our conclusion was ignored by the committee.

    • Verb: ignored
    • Actor: committee
  • Re-write: The committee ignored our conclusions.

The infant was rescued from the blaze by his mother.

    • Verb: rescued
    • Actor: mother
  • Re-write: The infant’s mother rescued him from the blaze.
  • If we write it: His mother rescued the infant from the blaze. “His” is unclear as a pronoun reference.

WHEN PASSIVE VOICE IS JUSTIFIED:

The recipient of the action is more important (prominent) than the performer of the action.

  • President Clinton was heckled by an unidentified comedian posing as a journalist.

The actor or performer of the action is unknown, difficult to identify or irrelevant.

  • The gift was damaged during shipping.
  • NOTE: In this case, the indicative mood (was) is used to state merely a condition or realistic explanation, not an implausible situation.

PARALLEL STRUCTURE (PARALLELISM):

Don’t mix elements in a phrase or series.

  • He enjoys books, movies and driving his car. (NO)
  • He enjoys reading books, watching movies and driving his car. (YES)

Don’t mix verbals (e.g., gerunds and infinitives).

  • He believes in using force and then to resort to diplomacy only if all else fails. (NO)
  • He believes in using force and then resorting to diplomacy only if all else fails. (YES)

Don’t mix tenses or voice.

  • Workers who were consulted regularly feel more committed to the company and had lower rates of absenteeism. (NO)
  • Workers who are consulted regularly feel more committed to the company and have lower rates of absenteeism. (YES)

Don’t mix singular and plural subjects.

  • One should study; students should know that. (NO)
  • Students should know that they should study. (YES)

Don’t use a dependent clause inappropriately.

  • The professor explained the theory of relativity, Newtonian Physics and that critical thinking is at the heart of scientific study. (NO)
  • The professor explained the theory of relativity, Newtonian physics and the importance of critical thinking in scientific study. (YES)

Be consistent with grammatical patterns in a sentence (e.g., verb-adjective-noun pattern of three phrases)

  • He vowed to decrease federal taxes, increase social services and strengthen foreign relations.

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Comments

  1. This is seriously one of the most informative sites I’ve visited. However, I was just wondering if the “(NO)” put after this sentence was intentional haha. Thanks.

    Workers who are consulted regularly feel more committed to the company and have lower rates of absenteeism. (NO)

  2. Thanks for catching the error! Fixed.

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