Use personal pronouns (I, we, our) when they are appropriate
and especially when they clarify your text:
Faulty: It has been found experimentally that
genetically altered strawberries are frost-resistant.
Write sentences that have people doing things:
Better: In this experiment, we found that genetically altered
strawberries are frost-resistant.
Faulty: It was decided that company policy be
changed to allow employee selection of personal leave days.
Avoid nominalizing (transforming verbs and adjectives into
Better: The personnel committee decided to change company policy
and allow employees to select their own personal leave days.
Faulty: We conducted an investigation of the
Avoid stringing nouns together and creating what scientist
Peter Medawar describes as "one huge noun-like monster in constant danger
of falling apart." The following examples are from Commerce Business
Better: We investigated the accident.
"fluidized bed waste heat recovery system demonstration"
and "roof rock bolt bond integrity tester development."
The examples below are from Joseph Williams:
Faulty: Early childhood thought disorders misdiagnosis often
occurs as a result of unfamiliarity with recent research literature
describing such conditions.
Better: Physicians unfamiliar with the literature on recent
research often misdiagnose disordered thought in young children.
Faulty: The new regulations could cause problems
for both the winners and for those who lose.
Emphasize important words by placing them where they receive
natural stress, either at the beginning or, for even greater emphasis,
at the end of a sentence:
Better: The new regulations could cause problems for both winners
Faulty: Rather than being a judge who pronounces
the verdict, the teacher becomes an editor who guides students' writing
with this method.
Place subordinate ideas in subordinate constructions:
Better: With this method, the teacher becomes an editor who
guides students' writing, rather than a judge who pronounces the verdict.
Faulty: The value is 50 watts and is best determined
by actual test.
Substitute descriptive verbs for vague verbs:
Better: The value, which is best determined by actual test,
is 50 watts.
Faulty: He went to the island.
Substitute lean words for ponderous expressions:
Better: He sailed to the island.
Faulty: Align the tubes in such a manner that
they all heat at the same time.
Substitute familiar for
Better: Align the tubes so they all heat at the same time.
Faulty: Everyone should be cognizant of the danger
Better: Everyone should be aware of the danger of explosion.
Avoid overused expressions common to the business world:
Faulty: Utilization of crystal clear goals and
objectives will optimize our capacity to prioritize our concerns so
that we will impact upon the major thrust of our company's future
plans and prospects.
Cut unnecessary words:
Better: If we clarify our goals and objectives, we will be
better able to concentrate on what is most important for our company's
Faulty: After a time interval of one to two minutes,
the tone usually stops.
Better: After one to two minutes, the tone usually stops.
Faulty: The cost must not be prohibitive.
Avoid confusing pronouns:
Better: The cost should not exceed $100 per thousand gallons.
Faulty: As the temperature falls, a compressive
stress is exerted by the bezel on the glass because of its greater
Keep sentence elements in their proper order:
Better: As the temperature falls, the bezel, because of its
greater temperature coefficient, exerts a compressive stress on the
Faulty: The sample to be analyzed first must
be put into solution.
Avoid dangling modifiers:
Better: The sample to be analyzed must first be put into solution.
Faulty: Walking up the hill, my umbrella was
blown away by the wind.
Reduce strings of prepositional phrases:
Better: While I was walking up the hill, the wind blew away
Faulty: The October 31 deadline for submission
of proposals in response to an invitation from
the National Science Foundation also applies to unsolicited
Better: The deadline for both solicited and unsolicited
proposals to the National Science Foundation is October 31.