Quirks of English
--for those who speak English as their second language or who just want to
improve their writing
(Illustrated version of Quirks of
Most of us have overindulged ourselves at one time or another, especially
during the holidays. We can overindulge our writing too, leaving in too much
fat. If your writing has been looking a bit bloated lately, try our low-fat,
after-the-holidays diet for lean writing.
- Use fewer nouns and more verbs. Put the main action of the
sentence in a verb, not a noun.
For example, The specimen was examined with SEM, instead of The
specimen was analyzed with an SEM examination.
See our article on active
verbs for some substitutions you can make.
- Cut back on buzzwords. See our article for some how-tos.
- Cut back on passive voice. Active voice and first person
are not the enemy (really), nor are they taboo in scientific and technical
writing--especially when conclusions are being drawn.
Try We believe that life cycle fatigue improved because instead of
It is believed that life cycle fatigue improved because.
- Make some lower fat substitutions. It can be hard work,
but won't your writing look better if it's lean and mean?
- Replace in the case of with for.
- Replace this is because of with because.
- Replace note that the with note, or just delete it.
- Replace with the objective to with to.
- Replace due to the fact that with because.
- Replace have a necessity for with need or
- Replace are of the opinion that with believe.
- Replace until such time as with until.
- Replace despite the fact that with despite.
- Replace make a decision to with decide to.
- Replace at this point in time with now.
- Replace for the purpose of with for.
- Replace on a weekly basis with weekly.
- Replace in a thorough manner with thoroughly.
- Get rid of redundancies. Look for phrases like very
unique, completely finished, was iterated repeatedly,
cold and frigid atmosphere, and printed as is without being fixed
- Mix long noun phrases and pronouns. If you referred to a
program or device by its proper name in the previous sentence, check to see if
it makes sense to use a pronoun instead in the following sentence.