Writing is a series of choices. As you work on your manuscript you choose your subject, your approach, and your sources. Then when it is time to write you choose the words that will express your ideas and decide how you will arrange those words into sentences and paragraphs. As you make revisions you make more choices. You might ask yourself, “Is this really what I mean?” or “Will readers understand this?” or “Does this sound good?” Finding words that capture your meaning and convey that meaning to your readers is challenging. When editors write things like “awkward,” or “wordy” on your document, they are letting you know that they want you to work on word choice. Keep in mind that it can sometimes take more time to “save” words from your original sentence than to write a brand new one to convey the same meaning or idea. Don’t be too attached to what you’ve already written. If you start a fresh sentence you may be able to choose words with greater clarity.
Sometimes the problem isn’t choosing exactly the right word to express an idea. It is the usage of the words or being “wordy”. Also, using words that are “extra” or inefficient can be the problem. Take a look at these:
1. “I came to the realization that…” why not say, “I realized that…”
2. “She is of the opinion that…” why not say, “She thinks that….”
3. “Regardless of the fact that…” simplify to, “Although…”
Be careful when using words you are unfamiliar with. Look at how they are used in context and check their dictionary definitions. Be careful when using the thesaurus. Each word may have its own unique connotation or shades of meaning. Use a dictionary to be sure the synonym you are considering really fits what you are trying to say.
Don’t try to make your work sound impressive or authoritative. In the end you will come off as pompous and will lose your reader to boredom. Take a look at these two sentences and decide which one you would rather read.
1. Under the present conditions of our society, marriage practices generally demonstrate a high degree of homogeneity.
2. In our culture, people tend to marry others who are like themselves.
Whenever we write we make choices. Some are less obvious than others, so that it can often feel like we’ve written the sentences the only way we know how. Read your paper out loud and at slow pace. You can do this alone or with a friend. When read out loud, your written words should make sense to both you and other listeners. If a sentence seems confusing, rewrite it to make the meaning clear.