It’s easy to miss word repetitions, sentence structures you overuse or punctuation errors. The ‘find’ function in Microsoft Word (control+F on a PC or command+F on a Mac) offers an invaluable shortcut for eliminating unhelpful writing tics. If you know apostrophes trip you up, search for them and check every single one is correct — or look for particular words, such as ‘it’s’. Clusters of ‘ofs’ or too many words ending in ‘ion’ or ‘ment’ are sure signs you’re using too many nouns instead of active verbs. For example, you could amend ‘Mwangi was responsible for the introduction of an innovative system’ to ‘Mwangi introduced an innovative system’. Variations on the ‘it is . . . that’ sentence structure waste words and can become an irritating habit. Compare ‘If you know that it is apostrophes that trip you up’ to the original phrase above. You can catch your own bad habits by making and using a checklist every time you edit your work. Your readers will appreciate the effort.
27 February 2020
Finessing an argument and spotting typos need different mindsets. Whether you’re writing an essay or a PhD, you need to be the editor as well as the author.
When we edit, most of us simply read the text, line by line, correcting as we go. But it can be more effective to read for one kind of fault at a time.
Here’s an enjoyable way to learn how the different parts of speech affect your writing style.