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Writing Center | Tightening and Brightening Tips

Based on John Trimble's "The Nuts and Bolts of Stylistic Revision"

  • Use the shortest and simplest words:  Avoid the polysyllabic words.

    Example: Choose words from list B rather that list A

AB
howeverbut
optimumbest
purchasebuy
position job
attempttry
requestask
utilizeuse
becausesince
  • Replace verb phrases with single verbs:

    Example: Use reflect, instead of is a reflection of; use object, instead of raise an objection to
  • Use active verbs. Passive voice is any form of the verb to be plus the past participle, and the reader has to read the entire sentence to know who is doing what.

    Example:
ActiveHarriette writes on a word processor; you should, too.
PassiveThe book review was written on a word processor by Harriette.


  • Use more vivid, pictorial verbs:

    Example: Instead of She is much taller than Jane, say She towers over Jane.
    Instead of He mows his lawn carefully, say He manicures his lawn.
  • Cut prepositions: (Hint, circle every of and in and try to strengthen the verbs and omit the prepositions).
    This sentence is in need of an active verb.
    This sentence needs an active verb.


Produced by MUSC's Writing Center - Under the direction of Professor Tom Waldrep

Jennie Ariail, Ph.D. - Director
Tom Waldrep, Ph.D. - Director (retired)

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