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Writing and Grammar Tips (beta)


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Category : Writing Tips

Eliminating Redundancies: Round 1

Redundancies are created by unnecessarily expressing the same idea or using the same word or phrase repeatedly. While it is often a good idea to mention the topic of a paper or paragraph more than once, so as to remind the reader of the paper or paragraph’s focus, mentioning a topic too much can actually detract from the quality of your writing. Likewise, mentioning a noun (especially a proper noun) too often, without substituting, for example, “she”, “he”, “this”, or “these”, can seem overbearing and is typically considered poor form. Variation is one key to good writing. Consider this example:

  • This paper will focus on the history of American literature. This paper will start by focusing on the history of American literature as it relates to the history of literature, in general. The history of literature is, generally, related to the history of humanity. The history of American literature is particularly concerned with the history of humanity because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which was highly concerned with humanity.

This paragraph makes several mistakes. It uses some words far too often – and a few more than once in the same sentence. The word “history” appears seven times, while the word “literature” appears five times, and the word “humanity” and phrase “history of American literature” three times each. While there is sometimes a fine line between using a word or phrase too little, just enough, and too much, in general, it is best to not use the same word twice in the same sentence (when the word is distinctive, e.g. history, but not necessarily when the word is generic, e.g. it) and to vary your word choice in both sentences and paragraphs (just as you should vary sentence structure).

Consider the following examples of words that are too close together:

  • This paper will focus on the history of American literature. This paper will start by focusing on the history of American literature as it relates to the history of literature, in general.
  • This paper will start by focusing on the history of American literature as it relates to the history of literature, in general. The history of literature is, generally, related to the history of humanity.
  • The history of American literature is particularly concerned with the history of humanity because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which was highly concerned with humanity.
  • The history of American literature is particularly concerned with the history of humanity because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which was highly concerned with humanity.
  • The history of American literature is particularly concerned with the history of humanity because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which was highly concerned with humanity.

This paragraph could be rewritten to read:

  • This paper will focus on the history of American literature. It will start by considering the history of literature, which is, generally, related to the history of humanity. American literature has tended to be concerned with the course of human development, in part because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which focused largely on understanding humanity.

Also, remember that variety and focus are not mutually exclusive. When varying your choice of words and phrases, try to avoid expressing or referring to key ideas that have already been mentioned in new but unnecessarily complicated ways.

Internet vs. Books

You may ask yourself: if the Internet has everything I need to help me write my paper, why do I have to use books at all? Isn’t all the important information online by now? Well the simple answer is this: the Internet does have a lot of information, but much of it is NEW information. Think about the fact that humans have been writing things down for thousands and thousands of years…in so many different languages! So, naturally, not all of this is online. However, quite a lot of it is found in libraries, archives, or in academic journals. To take your writing to the next level, remember to use all the resources available to you, not just the internet; you may even want to use movies, songs, poems, or photos if the situation permits. Sure, the Internet can give you quick and easy answers, but if you want to be even more in-depth, take a visit to the library.

Proofreading

Many students think that writing a paper is a single action: write the paper from beginning to end, print it out, and turn it in to the teacher. But wait! What about catching all the little mistakes you might have made? Or making sure that what you wrote actually makes sense?! That’s what proofreading is for! To “proofread” means to go back through your paper very carefully to find any mistakes or to see your paper as a “whole” rather than just several separate paragraphs. It will help you really see if the theme, thesis, or argument is well-presented throughout the entire paper. Some people proofread only once per paper, while others proofread several times…it’s all up to you!

Don’t avoid proofreading just because it takes more time. It’s worth it in the end, especially if your teacher takes points off for small mistakes! To start, try reading the paper aloud to yourself. Sounds silly, but it will help you see and hear what needs to be changed. You can also ask a friend to proofread your paper- a different perspective may see something you do not. Just remember to go slowly. It may take some time, but soon you will get in the habit of proofreading everything you write. For more detailed advice on catching comma errors, please see the blog post entitled “Proofreading for Commas.”