Archive for the ‘wordiness’ Category

To continue to keep….Another example of “bopping it twice.”

Monday, December 7th, 2015

It is easy to bop a concept twice when you are writing something. We all do it. Common examples include using ALSO and AS WELL together, BOTH of the TWO people, ALL of the TOTAL income, and money earned ANNUALLY PER YEAR. These examples have appeared in previous Grammar Glitch posts. 

I came across a new one in an article for The Birmingham News last week. In discussing gas prices, Leada Gore wrote this:

So how low can we go? According to AAA, prices are expected to continue to keep falling into 2016.

bopping it onceWhoops! Only one of the red phrases is needed. Either prices are expected TO CONTINUE FALLING or prices are expected TO KEEP FALLING. Bopping the nail on the head once will do!

The trick of a good writer–even a reporter who is on deadline–is to read back through and spot these redundancies before hitting the SEND button on the copy.


To use or not to use? (A grammar checker, that is.)

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

brain in gear

I use Grammarly's grammar checker because I don't want to misplace a comma and end up eating Gramma (as in "Let's eat Gramma!" instead of "Let's eat, Gramma!").

When I teach business writing workshops, I often remind participants to use grammar checkers with “brain in gear.” A grammar checker can point out possible problems in your writing, but if you choose to use one, you must have enough self confidence to recognize when the grammar checker has misinterpreted your meaning. After all, grammar checkers are NOT human, and they don’t catch all the nuances of what we humans write.

That said, I recently reviewed Grammarly.com, which bills itself as “the world’s most accurate online grammar checker.” I tried it out on several pieces of my own writing as well as a newspaper article. It spotted one overlooked typo and offered good suggestions for two overly wordy sentences. It also detected an incorrect indefinite article (A vs. AN). However, it declared EVERY proper noun I used (e.g. TALLASSEE, TUKABAHCHI, and WOODALL) to be a misspelling. Using the Grammarly.com scoring system to rate myself, I ended up with a horrible score, based mostly on properly spelled proper nouns that were declared incorrect.

Grammarly.com failed to spot a missing apostrophe in this sentence from an article about new education standards in Alabama:

“The change is intended to more closely align students education with the ACT, improving high school seniors’ scores….”

SENIORS’ SCORES is correct, with the apostrophe after the S, but STUDENTS EDUCATION should also be possessive (STUDENTS’ EDUCATION). As I write this, I see that the Word grammar checker put a green squiggly line under that one, but overall, I don't think Word's grammar checker is as effective as this one.

Grammarly.com also missed the incorrect plural form in this sentence:

“However, the director of student academic support at Auburn University said low ACT scores tend to be a better indicators of which students won’t perform well in college than high ACT scores are of which students will do well.”

A BETTER INDICATORS (plural) should be simply BETTER INDICATORS without A in front.

I do think Grammarly.com does an excellent job of explaining the errors it spots, and the examples it offers for correction are clear and easy to understand. As someone who writes virtually every day, I would say Grammarly could be a useful tool IF you keep your own brain in gear and view Grammarly as a helper rather than a quick cure for all errors. 


Bopping your idea twice does not improve clarity.

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Every writer's first draft–a report, a business letter, a novel, or even a simple email–is full of redundancy because the writer is trying hard to make a point. The trick is to proofread and edit out unnecessary wording so that the writing doesn't sound as if it is trying too hard. Here is a good example:

Either one or both of the two men then started shooting, he said.

 In this sentence, the words BOTH and TWO mean basically the same thing.  Only one of them is needed. In this case, the word needed is BOTH. TWO can be edited out, as follows:

Either one or both of the men then started shooting, he said.

 Here is another example of what I like to call "bopping it twice when once will do."

The end result is that this procedure will hinder our forward progress in 2012.

 END and RESULT mean about the same thing, and I have never known PROGRESS to move in any direction other than FORWARD. The sentence is much more effective this way:

The result is that this procedure will hinder our progress in 2012.

  


Bopping it twice with ALSO and AS WELL.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Birmingham's Bargain Mom offers good ideas for saving money at all times of the year, but in her column for today'sThe Birmingham News, she is not as frugal with words as she is with cash. While suggesting that readers visit the Family Circle Facebook page for some cookie recipes, she created this sentence:

You can also download a free slow cooker e-cookbook from their page as well.

The word ALSO means the same thing as the phrase AS WELL, so it is not necessary to use both in the same sentence.  Careful proofreading will usually catch this Glitch. It doesn't matter grammatically which choice you get rid of, but my style preference would be for dropping ALSO and keeping AS WELL.  Someone more casual might do the opposite.  I'd like the sentence this way:

You can download a free slow cooker e-cookbook from their page as well.

 

If you'd like to keep up with the money-saving tips of Birmingham Bargain Mom, you can find her on page 2A of The Birmingham News, or you can visit her website at http://blog.al.com/bargain-mom.

orororor you The 

 

 


Bopping it twice when once will do! PROOFREAD!

Friday, November 4th, 2011

I am happy to hear that Independent Living Resources of Greater Birmingham is getting a new 8,000 square foot facility next spring.  Since 1980, this agency has offered a wide variety of vital services to disabled people in our community, and their new building on Sixth Avenue North is well deserved.

When Birmingham News reporter Roy L. Williams wrote about this, he created a redundancy in the following sentence:

The $2 million, 8,000 square foot facility should open in the 1500 block of Sixth Ave. North by April or May 2012, said Dan Kessler, executive director of the agency that assists 2,000 individuals annually a year.

 I am certain this reporter knows that ANNUALLY and A YEAR mean the same thing, and I am certain he did not intentionally bop this point twice (as I refer to this crime in my business writing workshops).  He probably tried one version (ANNUALLY), then considered the second version (A YEAR) and then forgot to delete one or the other.

If he had proofread his copy, he would have spotted this redundancy error.  Apparently, the copy editor missed it, too. That is my point.  All of us create redundancies (bopping something twice when once will do), but the good writing trick is to proofread carefully and weed out the extras before going to print.  I would have worded the sentence this way:

The $2 million, 8,000 square foot facility should open in the 1500 block of Sixth Ave. North by April or May 2012, said Dan Kessler, executive director of the agency that assists 2,000 individuals a year.

 Are you wondering why I chose A YEAR and got rid of ANNUALLY? Two reasons: First, if two words or phrases mean exactly the same thing (no difference in shade of meaning), I always choose the simpler one, which is A YEAR. Second, I try to avoid placing multi-syllable words next to each other.  INDIVIDUALS has five syllables, and ANNUALLY has four.

COOK'S RULE: Avoid redundancies. Do not bop things twice when once will do.

 

FUNNY FOOTNOTE: In the headline of a recent post, I referred to an ambiguous "it," meaning a pronoun that did not have a clear antecedent.  As I often do in the body of a post, I used capital letters for the word I was referring to.  The headline read this way:

Benefits only available on Monday? Plus an ambiguous “IT.”

 

My new webmaster, who is an expert in IT (Information Technology), saw that headline and wondered who the ambiguous Information Technologist was!  Perhaps others did, too, so I have changed the headline to make it clearer that I am referring to the pronoun "it." It now reads this way:

Benefits only available on Monday? Plus an ambiguous “it.”

Welcome, Sam!

 

Wel MMymy M


All the total income? Wordiness is alive and well.

Monday, July 18th, 2011

 The former mayor of White Hall, Alabama, has been sentenced to two years in prison in a case involving tax returns. (Apparently, fraud is alive and well, too!) The following description of his crime appeared in a news brief in yesterday's The Birmingham News:

Court documents state that Jackson was accused of filing false tax returns in 2004, 2005 and 2006 that did not report all of the total income earned by him and his spouse, according to court documents.

First, the word ALL means basically the same thing as TOTAL.  One or the other will do in this sentence.  Second, the writer puts COURT DOCUMENTS STATE at the beginning of the sentence, and then for good measure, adds ACCORDING TO COURT DOCUMENTS at the end. In my workshops, I refer to this as "bopping it twice when once will do."

A quick proofread should have caught both of these redundancies before the newspaper went to print. This sentence should read as follows:

Court documents state that Jackson was accused of filing false tax returns in 2004, 2005 and 2006 that did not report the total income earned by him and his spouse.

 

BONUS GLITCH FOR THE DAY: Here is another gem from the blogosphere–I hope you read lot's of things. Whoops!  LOTS is simply plural, not possessive. This sentence should read–I hope you read lots of things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Redundant phrasing, also known as a “dog puppy,” weakens wording.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

In one of those clinical trial advertisements this week, I came across this question:

Do you have sore or bleeding gums, type 2 diabetes and are you at least 35 years of age or older?

It is always a good idea to read back over something you have written and look for what I like to call "dog puppies." (That is, if you tell me you have a puppy, I can assume it is a dog unless you have an unusual baby pet.)

In this question, it is not necessary to say both AT LEAST 35 YEARS OF AGE and 35 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER? One or the other will do.

I would also suggest making this two separate questions for more impact.  I think it should read this way:

Do you have sore or bleeding gums, type 2 diabetes? Are you at least 35 years of age?

 

NOTE: Apparently no one among my readers was brave enough to take on the 54-word sentence in my July 11 post, so I will offer my best edit in the next post.

I'd love to hear from any of you who have great examples of "dog puppies" to share.


Redundancy + agreement issue create poor sentence in email.

Monday, April 25th, 2011

 

Jefferson County (the county that includes Birmingham, Alabama) is mired in debt, largely because of poor decisions about sewer issues. Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens, who has responsibility for the county finance department, sent an email recently that included this sentence:

Cooperation and working together   to craft a solution is key as we move forward.  

 

Let's address the redundancy (a terrible form of wordiness) first. What is COOPERATION? The answer, of course, is WORKING TOGETHER. One or the other, but not both, will do. I would choose WORKING TOGETHER in this sentence because it blends better with TO CRAFT A SOLUTION.

Second, the AND in the subject creates a compound (plural) subject, so the verb should have been ARE rather than IS. However, because I am recommending dropping COOPERATION, the singular verb IS would be correct.

Here is my rewrite of this sentence:

 

Working together  to craft a solution is key as we move forward. 

 

I hope my readers agree that this is a much smoother and more efficient sentence.

 

 

 


Proofread to Wipe Out Wordiness

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

 

All of us write wordy.  Our brains want to help us get the point across by bopping things twice or even three times when once will do.  The best way to eliminate wordiness is to do a good job with Step 2, which is proofreading.

Here is an example sentence from a newsletter I received this week:

It also works the other way around as well.

ALSO is a good word, and AS WELL is a good phrase, but they do not need to be used together.  One or the other will do.  When you proofread, spot all the places where you have bopped your idea more than once.  Then choose which "bop" you want to keep and eliminate the others. 

With this example sentence, either "bop" will work, so it could read either way:

It also works the other way around.

It works the other way around as well


Newsletter Punctuation (and Wording) Problems–Part III

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Here is another post based on the newsletter I received recently.  The following paragraph would have benefited from a good proofread before publishing:

Sue gave two examples the first was from an existing client that was ecstatic because they were able to increase top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns by 15%. The next example had to deal manufactures that were angry that their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

1. The paragraph begins with a run-on sentence.  There should be a period after EXAMPLES.  Or, using a different style, a colon would be acceptable.

2. It is preferable to use WHO rather than THAT when referring to a person.

2. PERCENT should be written out (as one word) when it appears in a sentence.

3. Why say NEXT?  SECOND is a better and more specific choice.

4. I couldn't make any sense of HAD TO DEAL MANUFACTURES THAT…but I suspect the writer meant that it had to DO with MANUFACTURERS WHO were angry.

Here are two suggested solutions for improving this paragraph:

Sue gave two examples. The first involved an existing client who was ecstatic because his company had increased top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns fifteen percent. The second had to do with manufacturers who were angry because their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

Sue gave two examples: the first of an existing client who was ecstatic because his company had increased top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns fifteen percent, and the second dealing with manufacturers who were angry because their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

There are two good steps to good writing–the draft and the proofreading.  Most of us spend far too much time struggling with the initial draft and not enough time proofreading.  I suggest that you spill your thoughts and words out onto the screen quickly, then use the bulk of your time for editing and polishing.  The final result will be much better–I guarantee it!