落园 » 英文写作笔记(二):避免废话太多|专注经济视角下的互联网

英文写作笔记(二):避免废话太多

依旧从BerkeleyX: ColWri2.2x Principles of Written English 抄过来的。我真的对这门课是相见恨晚!呜呜,我写英文各种罗嗦(楼下群众:你中文更罗嗦好不好?你看落园多少废话?)

ps 中间有段讲写作语气的我没抄过来,这个感觉和语言就无关了,更多是用词的精准...

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what causes wordiness?

Wordiness is using more words than you need to in order to write what you mean.  Everyone has a tendency to be too wordy at times. Some of the causes of this wordiness are:

- Trying to sound too formal or academic. Unfortunately, in academic writing, there are a lot of examples of wordy writing. This doesn't mean you have to model your writing on bad examples. Your readers will always appreciate if you state your ideas clearly, and using no more words than needed.

- Not knowing more precise vocabulary.  For example, saying, She ran quickly to the store can be made somewhat less wordy, and more precise, by saying: She raced to the store (race=run quickly). Finding the right vocabulary can help you cut down the number of words you use. Every reduction helps, even if it's only a word or two.

- Using too many unnecessary and vague modifiers.  Typically, modifiers like really, very, quite, and similar words add no meaning to your writing. If you need to modify a word, find precise modifiers. For example, instead of There's a really tall building near my house, write: There's a 50-story building near my house. 

- Using too many prepositional phrases or possessives. These types of phrases can add length to your sentences, often unnecessarily. So, instead of The car belonging to Mr. Wang is in the garage [10 words], write: Mr. Wang's car is in the garage [7 words].

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Writing less wordy prose

One problem many writers have with wordiness is relying on some standard phrases that they hear or read. The table here, taken from the first part of this course, has a brief introduction of some of these wordy phrases:

Wordy Concise
based on the fact that because
despite the fact that although
in the event that if
at the present time now
until such a time as until
on a weekly basis weekly
it is often the case that often
have the ability to can
during the course of during
take under consideration consider
to be of the opinion to think
to make reference to to refer to
in the final analysis finally

Some steps to take to reduce wordiness when reviewing your work:

  1. Look for any of the phrases from this table and write them more succinctly.
  2. Look for places where you use modifiers, such as adjectives or adverbs. Consider whether the modifier adds important information. If it doesn't, remove it or change it to be more precise.  If you keep the modifier, ask if there is a more precise single-word vocabulary item that expresses the same meaning as the word + modifier.
  3. Look at any sentences in your writing that seem long. Determine if there are ways to cut the length of the sentence.
  4. Read your sentences out loud, one by one. Sometimes wordiness reveals itself when you hear it rather than see it.
  5. Don't use a passive verb construction when active would be better. Instead of writing The bill was paid by us, write: We paid the bill.
  6. Eliminate unnecessary personal commentary. Often, phrases like I believe, I think, I just want to emphasize, etc. are not needed to make your point.

It takes time to recognize wordiness in your own writing. However, the process will pay off--your writing will become much easier to read, or rather, your writing will be more readable.

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