Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It Is Important To Note That…And Other Unnecessary Phrases

I recently received a manuscript that was overly wordy. Throughout the paper, the author had sprinkled completely unnecessary phrases or phrases that could be expressed with a single word. For example, here is a list of phrases that can be replaced with the word "because":

-due to the fact that
-owing to the fact that
-in view of the fact that
-the reason why is that

This particular manuscript was unusually encumbered with these and other annoying phrases (it is important to note that, it is of interest to the reader that, it is indeed of significance that). I pointed out a few of these overblown phrases and explained why the author might want to eliminate them (and perhaps be on the alert for them in future writings). Inexperienced writers often are unaware that wordiness is not a virtue. They repeat the important-sounding phrases they've read in other papers. Unfortunately, they add nothing to the paper, except length. In other cases, I suspect that it is simple laziness. Lazy writers know better but don't make the effort to search out and remove extraneous words—perhaps expecting others (co-authors, reviewers, editors) to do it for them. For some, flowery writing is a habit; they see nothing wrong with their pet phrases.

Sometimes I slip and use a wordy phrase when writing a first draft; however, I usually catch them during revision. Here are a few ways to help purge your writing of wordiness:

1. Make at least one thorough reading of a manuscript to look specifically for such phrases (as well as convoluted wording that could be stated more simply).

2. Some of these phrases are innocuous and easily overlooked. It takes a fresh eye to spot them. Putting the draft aside for a few days or weeks can give you some distance and make it easier to root out those obnoxious phrases.

3. If you have a habit of using certain phrases, one easy solution is to do a word search for them.

4. Read your manuscript aloud; problematic phrases and awkward sentences become more obvious.

5. How do you determine if a phrase is unnecessary? See if the sentence or paragraph is understandable without it (or with a one-word substitute).

Want more? Here's a list of 30 obnoxious phrases.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bizarre, Sexist Advert for Scientific Equipment

In the "what were they thinking?" category:
Be sure to watch until 1:13 min.