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English Tip of the Week

Sleek Writing: Put Your Sentences on a Diet

English TipWe tend to speak plainly and succinctly but for some reason, when we write, we stuff our sentences with extra verbiage, turning streamlined ideas into confusing, out-of-shape messes.

Here is a good example of a sentence that needs a workout: The network that this computer is able to connect to contains information that is privileged and confidential. (Thanks to Lynne W. for this real-life example.) No one speaks this way. We couldn’t come up with such a mouthful of empty words if we tried! The fastest way to shape up your writing is to think simple by placing subjects and verbs close to each other: network contains and computer connects.

This will help you notice and remove extra words like is able to, that this computer, and that is privileged.

Now you will find it easier to rewrite the sentence: This computer connects to a network containing privileged and confidential information. Sleek!

For more tips on effective writing, click here.

Pop Quiz

Simplify the following sentences to make them sleek:

1. We are no longer able to reconcile; therefore, attorneys will be used to effect the dissolution of our marriage.

2. The weather had adverse impacts on our boat resulting in the necessity to rescue us from the water.

3. The leak in the bottom of the boat was due to poor maintenance on the part of the crew.

Scroll down to view answers to the pop quiz.

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and Punctuation
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Shakespeare and Oxymorons

Oxymorons are combinations of contradictory or incongruous words. Examples include almost perfect, clearly misunderstood, and pretty ugly.

William Shakespeare loved to play with words. In A Midsummer Night's Dream Theseus speaks these oxymoronic words (Act V, Scene I):

"'A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
And his love Thisby; very tragical mirth.'
Merry and tragical! tedious and brief!
That is hot ice and wondrous strange snow."

Pop Quiz Sample Answers

(Other answers are possible.)

1. We have hired attorneys to help us with our divorce.

2. Our boat capsized in the storm so we needed rescuing.

3. The boat leaked because the crew did not maintain it.

68 One-Minute English Usage Videos

English In A Snap: 68 One-Minute English Usage Videos FREE 

Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.


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