WRITER'S CHEAT SHEET
Use these ideas when proofreading your work.
I. BASIC PROBLEMS CREATED BY WORDS OR PHRASES
1. "And also". This phrase is often redundant.
2. "And/or" Outside the legal world, most of the time this construction is used, it is it neither necessary nor logical. Try using one word or the other.
3. "As to whether". The single word "whether" will suffice.
4. "Basically", "essentially", "totally" . These words seldom add anything useful to a sentence. Try the sentence without them and, almost always, you will see the sentence improve.
5. "Being that" or "being as" These words are a non-standard substitute for because. For example, "Because I was the youngest child, I always wore hand-me-downs."
6. "Considered to be". Eliminate the "to be" and, unless it's important who's doing the considering, try to eliminate the entire phrase.
7. "Due to the fact that". Using this phrase is a sure sign that your sentence is in trouble. Did you mean because? "Due to" is acceptable after a linking verb (The team's failure was due to illness among the stars.); otherwise, avoid it.
8. "Each and every". One or the other, but not both.
9. "Equally as". Something can be "equally important" or "as important as", but not equally as important.
10. "Etc." This word often suggests a kind of laziness. It might be better to provide one more example to suggest that you could have written more, but chose otherwise.
11. "He/she" is a convention created to avoid gender bias in writing, but it doesn't work very well and it becomes downright obtrusive if it appears often. Pluralize (where appropriate) so you can avoid the problem of the gender-specific pronoun altogether. Try finding a specific referent rather than a non-specific pronoun.
12. "Firstly", "secondly", "thirdly", etc. Number things with first, second, third, etc. and not with these adverbial forms.
13. "Got", "Get", "Give". Many scholars regard these terms as ugly words in academic writing and they have a point. If you can avoid it in writing, do so.
14. "Had ought" or "hadn't ought". Eliminate the auxiliary "had" and consider using "should" instead. For example, "You should not pester your sister that way."
15. "Interesting". One of the least interesting words in English, the word you use to describe an ugly baby. If you show us why something is interesting, you're doing your job.
16. "In terms of". See if you can eliminate this phrase.
17. "Irregardless" This non-existent word in the English language will get you in trouble with the boss. Deal in reality, not fiction.
18. "Some myriad of". Eliminate "Some" and "of" in association with this term. For example, "Myriad forms could be found within the Nag Hammadi library"
19. "Kind of" or "sort of". These are OK in informal situations, but in formal academic prose, substitute somewhat, rather or slightly.
20. "Literally". This word might be confused with literarily, a seldom used adverb relating to authors or scholars and their various professions. Usually, though, if you say it's "literally a jungle out there," you probably mean figuratively, but you're probably better off without either word.
21. "Lots" or "lots of". In academic prose, avoid these colloquialisms when you can use many or much. Remember, when you do use these words, that lots of something countable are plural. Remember, too that a lot of requires three words: "He spent a lot of money" (not alot of).
22. "Is", "Are", "Was", "Were", "Has", "Had", "Be", "Am", "Been", and "Being". Lazy writing begins with lazy verbs. Active voice mandates the use of active verbs. Avoid these verbs at all costs.
23 "Just". Use only when you need it, as in "just the right amount." Never use this term in the context of a petition (For example, "Oh, Lord, we just come to you. . ." Get it?)
24. "Nature". See if you can get rid of this word. Movies of a violent nature are probably just violent movies.
25. "Necessitate". It's hard to imagine a situation that would necessitate the use of this word.
26. "Of". Do not write would of, should of, could of when you mean would have, should have, could have.
27. "Between" refers to a relationship of two objects while "among" refers to a relationship involving three or more entities. And due not use the word "amongst" unless you can time travel to Shakespeare's England.
28. "On account of". Use "because" instead.
29. "Some fourteen persons attended the event" sounds quite ignorant. Which parts of the fourteen persons attended? Their toes? Eyes? Naughty bits? Avoid using "Some" in this strange manner.
30. "Only". Look out for placement. Don't write "He only kicked that ball ten yards" when you mean "He kicked that ball only ten yards." Close kin of dangling modifiers.
31. "Orientate". The new students become oriented, not orientated. The same thing applies to administrate — we administer a project.
32. "Per" Use "according to" instead. We did it per your instructions? Naah. (This word is used frequently in legal language and in technical specifications, where it seems to be necessary and acceptable.)
33. "Plus". Don't use this word as a conjunction. Use "and" instead.
34. In formal papers, avoid using all contractions.
35. "Point in time". Forget it! "At this time" or "at this point" or even "now" will do the job.
36. "Previous" as in "our previous discussion." Use "earlier" or nothing at all.
37. "This", "That", "These", "There" and "Those" should not be used as simple subjects for sentences. "These terms serve as modifiers of subjects" not "These serve as modifiers."
38. "So as to". Usually, a simple "to" will do.
39. "Suppose to", "use to". The hard "d" sound in "supposed to" and "used to" disappears in pronunciation but it shouldn't disappear in spelling. "We used to do that" or "We were supposed to do it this way."
40. "The reason why is because". Deja vu all over again! In other words, redundant.
41. "Thru". This nonstandard spelling of through should not be used in academic prose.
42. "'Til". Don't use this word instead of "until", even in bad poetry.
43. "Try and" Don't "try and" do something. Do something.
44. "Thusly" What the hell does this word mean? Use thus or therefore instead. On second thought, just omit these terms entirely.
45. "Utilize" Don't use this word where "use" would suffice.
46. "Very", "really", "quite" (and other intensifiers). Like "basically", these words seldom add anything useful. Try the sentence without them and see if it improves.
47. Avoid double and triple prepositions. For example, do not say, "The cat up in the tree, ate the bird." Instead, try "The cat ran up the tree and ate the bird".
48. Avoid colloquial language in academic papers. Phrases such as "...movements sprouted up left and right." or "As the story goes" will surely lose the respect of the reader. In short, avoid clichés.
49. Academic prose does not resemble email prose. All sentences must possess subjects, predicates and modifiers. Avoid the use of smiley faces, frowns, multiple punctuations and other trite devices.
50. Delete "in order" in most sentence. For instance, "The prisoners escaped in order to fulfill their ruthless promises for revenge" should read "The prisoners escaped to fulfill their ruthless promises of revenge." Always strive for an economy of expression: fewer words with greater impact.
51. The number thing: spell out completely numbers one through ten. Higher integers may be represented numerically (e.g.; 13, 48888, 666). When composing dates, place the day before the month and year (e.g.; 07 May 1986) since most of the world follows this convention. No need to look nonconformist. "And one more thing", avoid this statement, unless in an argument and you sense yourself losing ground. Spell out ordinal numbers as well (e.g.; fifteenth century).
52. Like your fifth grade English teacher stated: Do not end sentences with a preposition.
53. While I am writing, may I remind you of the differences between the terms "religion" and "denomination". For instance, Baptists represent a denomination with the Christian religion. Likewise, one would not say
"the Methodist religion". Further, Protestants exist as a division of Christianity, not a religion itself (although some Protestants might find this idea hard to handle). While on religious nomenclature, "Hebrew Bible" refers to the Jewish scripture. One would not say "Christian Hebrew Bible" or "Jewish Old Testament".
54. "However", "Therefore", "Further". "Likewise". Do not start a sentence with these terms. Reserve these lovely words to connect two clauses. For improper usage, see #53.
55. "In order to". Omit "in order".
56. Inanimate objects, such as papers, cannot engage in animate actions. For instance, "The article gave a clear description..." Sadly, the article did not "give" the reader the description, but the author might.
II. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE
1.Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's.
2.In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last.
3.Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.
4.Place a comma before and or but introducing an independent clause but not in a series. For example: "Lions, tigers and bears" instead of "Lions, tigers, and bears"
5.Do not join independent clauses by a comma. You can use a semicolon if you eliminate the conjunctive and the comma.
6. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.
7. Divide words at line-ends in accordance with their formation and pronunciation.
III. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION
9. Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic. Each paragraph must consist of at least three sentences.
10.As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; end it in conformity with the beginning. All sentences in a paragraph should demonstrate an obvious relationship with the topic sentence.
11.Use the active voice.
12.Put statements in positive form.
13.Omit needless words.
14.Avoid a succession of loose sentences.
15.Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form.
16.Keep related words together.
17.In summaries, keep to one tense.
18.Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.
19. "Humans project on the world through objectification. Through objectification..." Do not start a sentence with the end of a previous sentence.
20. Do not start a sentence the exact way you end the preceding sentence. For instance: "Perhaps the most important event of American History should be considered the launching of Apollo 11. Apollo 11..." In short: redundant.