So, you’ve done a lot of research, and now it’s time to start writing, or you’ve written your piece and it’s time to read it through for a first self-edit. When you’ve written down your thoughts, they may appear on paper as you speak in everyday conversation.
However, unless you’ve written a novel, everyday vernacular is usually unacceptable. And words tend to creep into your text that may make it sound less than professional or are used so repetitiously that they sound boring. Again, unless it’s narrative, interjections such as “like” or “you know” (e.g., “like, you know”), have to go. It’s not just the quality of your content that counts; it’s how you present it that makes a work worth reading.
As you read through your text, it’s important to look for other, more subtle, words that can creep into your content. These are usually used as connectors or sentence openers. Used too often—for lack of creative writing skills (e.g., using a thesaurus once in a while)—they can make your work appear amateurish. Following are some of these words, with a list of alternatives and examples.
“and”, used to add information
The word” and” tends to be overused. Young children, especially, don’t seem to know how to end a sentence in speech; they just keep adding “ands”. This is also true of adults who don’t want to relinquish the floor. However, there’s no place for endless “ands” in good writing. Following are some alternatives:
Furthermore (e.g., He’s a sleazy businessman.Furthermore, he seems to associate with the wrong kinds of people.
Likewise (e.g., She seems like an easygoing performer.Likewise, she seems like a nice person in real life.
Similarly (e.g., My parents lived in several cities.Similarly, my girlfriend’s parents moved around a lot.
As well as (e.g., I know how to ice-skate,as well as how to ski.
What’s more (e.g., He was quite handsome.What’s more, he was fairly intelligent.
“but”, used to demonstrate contrast
The word “but” is often used to show contrast between strong and weak points of an object, idea, theory, etc. This is often overused, the same way that “and” is. However, as with “and”, there’s no place for endless “buts” in good writing. Following are some alternatives:
Yet (e.g., I haven’t had any ‘junk food’ for two weeks.Yet, I don’t miss it.
However (e.g., In a game of ‘who got the last hit’, my younger sister used to sneak up and hit me, then immediately yell for my mother.However, when Mom arrived, I was always being caught hitting back.
Having said that (e.g., I like most baked goods.Having said that, I’m most fond of fresh-baked bread.
Then again (e.g., My friend is always giving me used stamps, which are pretty worthless. Then again, he doesn’t know too much about stamp collecting.
On the other hand (e.g., Drinking coffee at night often keeps be awake.On the other hand, drinking it earlier in the day seems to be fine and enjoyable.
Explanations or alternatives
If you have a complex point that needs further explanation, try using one of the following phrases:
In other words (e.g., Human beings and other animals are omnivores. In other words, they can eat just about anything.”
To put it another way (e.g., Your flag is at ‘half-mast.’ To put it another way, your zipper is halfway down.”
To that end (e.g., Europeans wanted to get spices faster, more reliably, and cheaper.To that end, explorers searched for the best land and sea routes.
In order to (e.g., In order to understand the various alternatives, you may need to work with an adviser.
That is to say (e.g., I’m not doing well in my studies.That is to say, I may need to hire a tutor and/or study harder.
Providing one or more examples is a great way to make a point. However, starting a sentence with the usual boring “For example, …” can get tiring. Following are some alternatives:
For instance (e.g., There are a number of schools of thought regarding dog training.For instance, some people use food or treats, while others use clicker-training.
To give an illustration (e.g., Some homeowners have wonderful landscaping, while others couldn’t care less.To give an illustration, one neighbor has a showplace, while another lets the weeds grow.
Let’s (just) say (e.g., I had an uncle who traveled a lot.Let’s just say that I have a large collection of postcards he sent.
Markedly (e.g., John had served nine short prison terms. Markedly, this means that he was not likely to reform.
In particular (or Specifically) (e.g., People in certain regions are not open to strangers. In particular, the Northeast and Northwest US come to mind.
Spice up your writing by learning and using alternatives to the usual boring linking words.
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