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There are two main reasons
for wordiness in an essay: the student has used too many words to express
something, or has said the same thing more than once, although perhaps
in different ways--in other words, has been guilty of redundancy.
Try to pare down your writing so that you don't waste time (yours or your
Here is an example of the sort of wordy writing we see all the time:
Within the novel Frankenstein, the author, Mary Shelley,
portrays the character of Victor as obsessive.
"Within" here is unnecessary;
"In" is all you need. You don't need to tell us that Frankenstein
is a novel, Mary Shelley
is its author, or Victor is a character in it:
Shelley portrays Victor as obsessive.
Avoid phrases like:
the fact that
in my opinion (especially when it's followed by "I think"!)
it would seem that/it seems that
the use of
We frequently see pointless
and even illogical use of "use of":
use of ice imagery
conveys a sense of desolation.
It is not the "use of" such
imagery but the imagery itself that creates the effect:
ice imagery conveys a sense of desolation.
Here's a sentence that actually
appeared in a student's essay:
Shelley's use of powerful words
such as [followed by a list of words] are used to create pity for the
Redundancies occur in
a variety of ways. Here are some phrases, for example, that are redundant
clearly evident (if something
is evident, it's clear)
the reason why is because (a triple: say "reason," "why," OR "because" but not any two or all three)
Beware of repeating something
you've already said. For example, students sometimes want to avoid
ending a sentence with a preposition:
is the situation she finds herself in.
So, students will use a construction
like "to which" or "in which":
This is the situation in which she finds herself.
The problem is that when they
get to the end of the sentence it sounds wrong to them, so they put the
final preposition in anyway:
this is the situation in which she finds herself in.
It's better to end with
a preposition than to use it twice.
Avoid using unnecessary pronouns:
In Huxley's novel, it deals with...
In the novel by Mary Shelley, she says...
Huxley's novel deals with...
In her novel, Mary Shelley says...
Here's a classic example of redundancy; note how often the student
says exactly the same thing:
Frankenstein went headfirst into
his experiment blindly with very little thought as to the consequences,
possible outcome, and results of his actions.
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Strong and Weak Style:
Many factors influence how strong
your style is. Note that
the previous sentence does not say, "There are many factors that influence
how strong your style is." By avoiding "There is" and "There are"
constructions wherever you can, you can make your style stronger.
Use verbs other than "to be"; find strong ones:
weak: he is a believer in the power of Nature
believes in the power
Avoid the passive voice.
The passive voice also involves the verb "to be" and uses the past participle.
Revise your sentence to make the verb active:
passive: he is pursued by the Creature
Creature pursues him
decision is taken by him
takes the decision
active and strong:
The simple rule is: if something is done "by" someone, change the
sentence to have that someone do the action unless there's a good reason
to keep the sentence or clause passive. For example, keep the same
subject in a sentence even if one of the verbs is passive:
He entered the room and was struck
by its beauty.
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