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Tips on Clear, Concise Writing

• Ensuring the Use of Parallel Structure in Lists
• Avoiding the Use of There is and There are
• Common Incorrect Words and Phrases

 

Ensuring the Use of Parallel Structure in Lists

Copyright © 2001–2017 Lynette M. Smith

Whether you're using a bullet list or a run-in list within a paragraph, it's important to use parallel grammatical structure for clarity.

Wrong (nonparallel): She had several talents—to process the mail, running the front office, and high-speed keyboarding. [The use of two differing verb forms and a gerund—an -ing word that functions as a noun—distracts and confuses the reader.]

Right (parallel): She had several talents—processing the mail, running the front office, and keyboarding at a high speed. [All three elements are verbs that end in -ing.]

This parallel-structure concept applies to all forms of writing; so whenever you encounter a list, make sure each component "plays well with others."

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Avoiding the Use of There Is and There Are

Copyright © 2000–2017 Lynette M. Smith

There is and there are weaken your sentences. You can strengthen them by eliminating unnecessary, passive words:

Weak: There is a small compartment in my jewelry box to hold my rings.
Strong: A small compartment in my jewelry box holds [or can hold] my rings.

Weak: There are special rules that should govern your behavior.
Strong: Special rules should govern your behavior.    

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Common Incorrect Words and Phrases (A Myriad of, Reoccur/Reoccurring, More Then, Could Care Less)

Copyright © 2000–2017 Lynette M. Smith

Wrong: A myriad of choices abound. [The A and of shouldn't be present, although this usage has recently become more acceptable in some circles.]
Right: Myriad choices abound. [This is more commonly acceptable.]

Wrong: reoccur, reoccurring [There are no such words.]
Right: recur, recurring

Wrong: more then likely [Then should refer exclusively to time, e.g., now and then]
Right: more than likely [Than is a comparative word, e.g., farther than, longer than]

Wrong: I could care less. [This means that you must care to some degree, because it's still possible for you to care less than that.]

Right: I couldn't care less. [It would be impossible for you to care any less than you do, because you really don't care at all.]

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