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Wordy phrases examples
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Recognize and eliminate wordy phrases and empty words. Example: Wordy phrases. The fact is that at this point in time more women than men attend college .

The editors at The Isis Group often joke that we should put together a list of phrases used by scientists that should automatically be eliminated from every manuscript or grant that we edit. Well… here is a first draft of that list.

Most of these examples arise from excessive wordiness or the use of unnecessary phrases. Our advice: use the search function in your word processing program, find these phrases, and hit that delete or replace button.

Drawing by Scott Espeseth

First, “Search and Destroy” these phrases:

  • “It has been shown that…”
  • “It is known that…”
  • “It is generally thought that…”
  • “It has been reported that…”
  • “It was found that…”
  • “We believe…”

And yes, I am suggesting you literally find them, and promptly delete them. Really. Your sentence will still convey the same meaning.

On that note, many grant reviewers and journal editors cringe when they see things like “novel”, “this is the first report of…”, “revolutionary”, “cutting-edge”, “innovative”, “state-of-the-art” and words and phrases similar to these. I would highly recommend conducting a mission to “Search and Destroy” the majority of these as well.

Next, “Search and Replace” these phrases with their less wordy counterparts.

At the end of this mission, your manuscript or grant will have a clear and direct tone, allowing you to convey the results of your research more effectively.

By the way, the accompanying graphic for this blog post comes from my cousin-in-law, Scott Espeseth as part of his “endeavors worthwhile” collection. While drawing this graphic, Scott reminisced about “those fidgety ‘doodle’ drawings that we did back in high school on our subject notebooks” (do kids these days even have those anymore? If not, they’re clearly missing out). Most scientists may not be as talented as Scott in our “doodle drawings”, but nonetheless, it provides a great illustration to accompany this post.

Be sure to go on a “Search and Destroy” mission after you’ve finished your manuscript or grant. And if you need help, you can always contact The Isis Group!

 

Tags: grant writing, Journal Article, journal article; getting started; science writing, Manuscript

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 14th, 2011 at 8:28 AM and is filed under Grant Writing, Journal Article, Manuscript, SBIR grants, Scientific Writing, STTR grants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Try using these simpler, concise alternatives to wordy, bureaucratic phrases.

25 Wordy Expressions

wordy phrases examples

Try using these simpler, concise alternatives to wordy, bureaucratic phrases. Also see Using appropriate words in the County's Plain-language writing guide.

Avoid these ...

Try these instead ...

According to our records ...We find ...
adequate number ofenough
adjacent tobeside, by, close to, near, next to
afford an opportunityallow, give, let
ahead of schedule early
a large proportion of many, most, much (or be specific)
all ofall (unless followed by a pronoun)
almost allmost
along the lines of like, similar, similar to
already existdrop already
an estimatedabout, almost, more than, nearly
are in possession of has, have, owns, with
arrange to return return
as a matter of fact ...Usually unneeded. Leave out.
as a result of because, because of, since
as long asif, since
as of now; as of [date]about; from, on
As per [our records] ...Our records show ...
as regardsabout
assuming thatif
as toabout, of, on, to (or leave out)
as well asalso, and
at all timesalways (or leave out)
at an early date soon (or a specific date)
attached herewith is here are, here's, with this (or leave out)
at the end ofafter
at the present time, at this point in time, at this timenow, today (be specific or leave out)
at the timewhen (or be specific)
bring to a conclusion conclude or assume, close, decide, end, finish, infer, settle
by means ofby, using, with

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Plain Language

center aroundat, in, on, revolve around
come to an agreement agree
comply withfollow, obey
conduct an investigation investigate or examine, explore, find out, look into, research, search, study
conduct experiments experiment
consensus of opinion, general consensusagreement, consensus
contiguous toadjoining, next to, touching
course ofat, during, in, while
desirous ofuse a form of want (or leave out)
despite the fact that although, despite, even though
draw to your attention point out, remind you of, show, show you
due to the fact that as, because, because of, for, since
during such time, during the course of, during the timeduring, when, while

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Plain Language

effect many changeschange
except whenunless
excessive number oftoo many
extend an invitation invite
for the purpose of for, of, to
for the reason thatbecause, for, since
for the sum of for
give and takecompromise, concession, discussion, exchange
give an indication of hint, show, signal, suggest
give consideration to consider
has nolacks
has the capability can
have an effect onaffect
hold a conference, hold a meetingconfer, meet

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Plain Language

in addition also
in addition toalso, and, as well as, besides, beyond
in advance of before, by (or be specific)
in a timely mannerat once, on time, quickly
in an effort to to
in conjunction withand, with
in connection with about, in, of, on, over, with
in lieu offor, instead of
in most cases, in most instancesmostly, most of these, often, usually
in order toto
in place offor
in (the) possession of has, have
in reference toabout, for, on
in regard to; in relation to about, for, on; about, in, on, to, toward, with
in respect of about, for, of
in spite of (the fact that)although, despite
in terms ofabout, at, by, for, in, with
in the amount offor, of, the
in the context ofabout, for, in, of
in the course ofat, during, in, while
in the event thatif, when (not if and when)
in the (very near) (not too distant) future soon
in the vicinity ofabout, around, close to, in, near, round
in this day and age nowadays, today
in view of the fact because, since
it would appear thatapparently, clearly, obviously, plainly, seemingly
it is probable thatprobably
limited number few
located in, located onin, on, found
made a statementsaid
make a decision, make a determination control, decide, discover, find out, end, fix, settle
make an application apply
make an examination of examine
make reference torefer to
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Plain Language

none at allnone
not in a position to cannot, can't, unable to
notwithstanding the fact that although, despite, even if, however
of major importanceare important, is important, was important
on a daily basis, on a regular basis daily, regularly
on behalf of backed, for, supported
one of thea, an, one
on most occasions usually
on the part ofamong, by, for, of
over the duration of during
per annuma year, yearly, annually
per capitaa person, a head
per diema day, daily, daily allowance, for each day
Please find enclosed (or attached) ...I am enclosing ..., I am attaching ...
present timenow, present
prior tobefore, ahead of 
provided that if, provided
pursuant toby, following, under

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Plain Language

realize a savings of save
refer to ascall, name, term
regards to, as regards, with regard toabout, as for, for, in, of, on, over, respecting, to, toward, with
relating to about, on
result inlead to
short supplyscarce
some of thesome
spell outdescribe, detail, explain, specify, show
state with confidenceuse a form of be confident
subsequent, subsequent toafter, following, later, next, resulting, then
sufficient number ofenough, plenty

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take actionact
take exception to challenge, disagree (with), dispute, object
take into consideration consider
The undersigned ...I, me, we, us
this office I, me, we, us
time frameage, era, interval, period, time
to a certain degreein part, less often, less so, partially, some
to a large degree largely
to whatever extenthowever
under the provisions ofby, under
until such timeuntil, when
use upuse
was of the opinion that believed, said, thought
we are of the opinion we believe, we think
whether or notwhether
with a view to to
with reference toabout, for, on (or leave out)
with regard toabout, for, on (or leave out)
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Category: wordy phrases

wordy phrases examples

This may be the single most powerful way to improve a sentence. Many writers clog their work with words that don’t add to the meaning of the sentence—and that’s true of published freelancers, not just college freshmen. I appreciate a dense, descriptive style (Faulkner, Lawrence, Pynchon), but there’s a difference between rich prose and a forest of dead wood. Writing clean, lean prose will serve most students better than straining for flowery eloquence or impenetrable academic complexity.

Introduce the topic

Project this on the screen:

Compare these two passages

A:

In the famous Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s drama, A Doll House, the perfect, ideal world of the protagonist, Nora, turns out to be a terrible, false paradise, a dollhouse, which eventually is exposed for what it is at the dramatic climax, when the terrifying threat of unbearable social disgrace pressures Nora’s dominating husband to show his true, unloving, selfish colors.

B:

In Ibsen’s A Doll House, the perfect world of the protagonist, Nora, turns out to be a false paradise. At the climax, the threat of disgrace forces Nora’s husband to show his true colors. Under pressure, he behaves selfishly, without love.

Ask the class: Which version do you prefer, A or B? Why?

Discuss

Passage A was adapted from a student essay; passage B is an edited version of the original.

Point out that “A” is one long sentence. It has complexity and momentum, but it feels clumsy because the words have been piled on so thickly. In “B,” the same meaning is expressed more quickly and clearly.

This doesn’t mean you should never write long, complex sentences or include details that add to a reader’s understanding. There is a place for dense language — and long, complex sentences have their own appeal — but in general, if you’re trying to communicate information or ideas, you’ll do it more effectively if you strip away the words that aren’t needed.

Most of us use unnecessary words in our first drafts; but careful writers delete them when revising.

The lesson

Writing concisely means expressing your meaning clearly and directly, in as few words as possible.

Why omit unnecessary words? Because extra words slow the reader down, and make it harder to see what you’re trying to say.

What kinds of words and phrases are unnecessary?

  • Repetitive words
    • Three of the following words mean the same thing:
      • Driving a Formula One car demands absolute, complete, total concentration.
    •  Just one of them will do the job:
      • Driving a Formula One car demands total concentration.
  • Words that don’t add meaning
    • There’s no need for the word “own” in this sentence:
      • He wrote his own autobiography.
    •  Who else’s autobiography could he write?
  • Words that clog up the sentence
    • First drafts often include words like basically, essentially, and Most sentences will be stronger if you delete them.
      • Basically, he was a very strong leader.
    • Delete basically and very, and you have a better sentence.
  • Dull introductory phrases
    • Examples:
      • It has often been observed that…
      • Everyone knows that…
    • Try starting the sentence without these phrases.

Here are some wordy phrases you can usually replace:

Project this:

These Wordy Phrases……can be replaced with these concise phrases

at the present time                                         now; currently

at this point in time                                       now; currently

because of the fact that                                  because

due to the fact that                                        because

in spite of the fact that                                  although

in the event that                                             if

in light of the fact that                                   because

Practice

If you prefer, you can have the class work on the first sample sentence together, by asking volunteers for suggestions. Then students can work in pairs to improve sample sentences; finally, they should try it individually. I’m only offering a few examples here, but you can create your own wordy sentences using the categories I’ve defined above.

Project this:

Find the unnecessary word (or words) in this sentence

Then rewrite the sentence using fewer words.

To be sure, Ann Bradstreet was a great American writer, and she was an admirable person, more or less.

 

Here are a few more sample sentences for your students to work on:

When you see a strong, brawny, muscular guy reach for sparkly, twinkly, glittering stars in the sky, you can bet that he’s got long arms.

The raven kept saying the same word over and over, again and again, repeatedly.

Needless to say, dogs with rabies behave oddly.

 

When students are working in pairs and individually, they should post their revised sentences on Padlet for others to see. They can put their initials on their work, or create a preposterous nickname if they prefer anonymity.

I tell them to look at what others have done.

Then we discuss: which revisions seem to be the most effective? (Few of my students are willing to judge. Usually, I have to point out what seem to me the best revisions.)

If no one has come close, I write a revision of my own and post it.

Homework

Assign a few sentences to edit, asking students to trim away the unnecessary words. Examples:

  1. The Egyptian pyramids were built an extremely long time ago, around 2700 B.C.- 2200 B.C.
  2. Advertisements in magazines tend to attract the reader’s attention with strong designs that are very bold and vivid colors that are really bright.
  3. True friends are very important to have in a time of serious crisis.
  4. It is known that the duration of the common cold can be shortened by giving the person with the cold doses of zinc gluconate in the form of lozenges.

 

Below is the list of pain-language substitutions for wordy phrases in English. . List of + Synonyms in English from A-Z with Examples 2 English Vinglish.

50 Plain-Language Substitutions for Wordy Phrases

wordy phrases examples

(This post originally appeared Jan. 2014)

Prepositions are important structural words that create a relationship between a noun or pronoun and another part of a sentence, expressing a relationship between time, space, and other senses. Prepositions are one of those parts of speech that garner little attention, but can cause all sorts of trouble, especially for English language learners.  We say we are at a café to visit a friend who was in the hospital. We watch a show on TV but at a movie theater. They sit on the couch, while he sits in the chair, but she lies in bed!

Below is a list of some of the most commonly used prepositions:

about, above, after, against, along, among, around, as, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, despite, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, near, of, off, on, onto, out, over, past, since, through, to, toward, under, until, up, upon, with, without.

What makes prepositions so confusing is that many prepositions have a wide range of meaning, depending on how they are used in a sentence. Note in the following example how English uses in and on:

The apples are in the bowl.
The apples are on the table.
I spilled apple juice on my dress.

Many languages don’t use prepositions at all, and some languages, such as Spanish, would use the same preposition (en) in all of the previous examples.

I learned to remember space-related prepositions by thinking about what a squirrel can do to a tree. A squirrel can go
around a tree
behind a tree.
below a tree.
beneath a tree.
in a tree.
onto a tree.
over a tree.
toward a tree.
up a tree.
under a tree.

In the squirrel examples above, the preposition shows the relationship between the squirrel and the tree (object of the preposition).

The squirrel prepositions are, as noted, space-related prepositions, as they show the object (tree) in relation to space. Prepositions can relate to time, place, and movement.

Prepositions for Time:

InIn January, 1978, the Midwest suffered a terrible blizzard.

On                   On Monday, we’ll begin a new unit.

At                    At midnight, the ball will drop in Times Square.

For                  He waiting in line for two hours.

Since             I haven’t been back home since 2008.

When referring to a month or year, we don’t use “on,” unless the specific day is given:

On January 21, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Prepositions for Place

In                     We were riding in the car.

On                   Leave the book on the table.

At                    She is waiting at the entrance.
You could also ride on a car, but that means you would literally be on the outside of the car:
The beauty queen rode on the car [in the parade].

You could leave the book in the table, if you are placing it inside a drawer:
Leave the book in the table[’s drawer].

You could be waiting in the entrance, which would mean you are inside:
She is waiting in the [theater’s main] entrance.


Prepositions for Movement

To                   He went to the movie. OR
He came from the movie.

Into                 She stepped into the bathtub. OR
She stepped out of the bathtub.

Toward         The baby crawled toward his mother. OR
The baby crawled away from his mother.

One of the most common problems with prepositions occurs when prepositional phrases are strung together to create an overly complicated sentence:

It is a matter of the gravest possible importance to the health of anyone with a history of a problem with disease of the heart that he or she should avoid the sort of foods with a high percentage of saturated fats (from writing.wisc.edu).

Too many prepositional phrases create plodding prose and a confusing sentence. Can you identify the subject and verb in the previous sentence? I’m not sure I can!

Revised: People with heart problems should avoid high fat foods.

The subject (people) and verb (should avoid) are much clearer in the revised example. The best writing is concise writing, and prepositional phrases often are crutches we lean on a bit too heavily that create wordiness and confusion.

Placement of Prepositions

You probably learned in high school that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition. This is one of those grammar rules that cause disagreement among grammarians. It’s not always so easy to rearrange the concluding preposition to another place in the sentence. Try rewording the following sentences to move the concluding preposition:

1)    The dress had not been paid for.

2)    Tell him he is taking too much on.

3)    We are such stuff as dreams are made of. (William Shakespeare)

4)    All words are pegs to hang ideas on. (Henry Ward Beecher)

5)    That is nonsense up with which I shall not put. (Winston Churchill)

As you can see, even some of our great writers break the rule. Consider this rule a writer’s choice. Whether one considers it right or wrong is a debate we won’t go into. (!)

This is only a tiny bit of all there is to know about prepositions and their uses. As you can see, it takes patience and practice.

Practice!
Fill-in each sentence with a preposition from the list.

Along; down; across; beyond; underneath; after; against

1. I looked ______________________ the hill at the many houses below.

2. Make sure to check ______________________ your bed for your shoes.

3. __________________ we go to the movies, we will go eat at a restaurant.

4. I leaned ______________________ the side of the wall.

5. Can you walk ______________________ with me as we go shopping?

6. If you look ______________________ those trees, you will see a cabin.

7. We will walk _______________________ the street when it is safe. (from englishlinx.com)

Some examples from http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/prepositions.htm

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WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: 20 ACADEMIC ENGLISH Phrases- Academic and Formal English Vocabulary

Look at the examples below. Wordy: Viseth, who is an accountant, has been promoted. Revised: Viseth, an accountant, has been promoted.

wordy phrases examples
Written by Dairr
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