Some Useful Writing Tips

Writing Tip: Proximity

In theory, English is a simple language; subject-verb-object with adjectives before the noun and adverbs wherever they make most sense! English does not have all of the complexity of genders of many languages, or of tenses.

Then we complicate it with all sorts of nuances, that sometimes confuse even the native speaker – what hope for those communicating in English when it is not their mother tongue.

Part of the purpose of this site is to help people avoid inadvertently causing offense by either using the wrong words, or getting the word sequence wrong.

And don’t worry – native speakers make some very interesting mistakes. 

The Civil Service in the UK once sent out a memo to all staff about the potential health threat to women’s fertility emanating from the radiation from VDU screens. The memo read “This memo will be of interest to those women who are pregnant, or who wish to become pregnant whilst at work.” We know what they meant, but that wasn’t quite it!

Another recent extract from a National Newspaper in the UK reported that “Yesterday, a meeting took place about the harassment of sheep in the secretary of state’s office” The keyword here is “proximity”. Make sure that if you have a sub clause that qualifies the subject of the sentence, that you place it by the subject and not the object!

Writing Tip: Avoid Redundancy

Here’s a writing tip to help you to prune unwanted words; avoid redundancy! There are two major categories of redundant words to look out for: redundant pairs and redundant categories. In both cases, they are usually superfluous and it is best to leave them out.

Redundant Pairs – Tautologies

Many pairs of words imply each other. Finish implies complete, so the phrase completely finish is redundant in most cases. So are many other pairs of words:

• past memories
• various differences
• each individual
• basic fundamentals
• true facts
• important essentials
• future plans
• terrible tragedy
• end result
• final outcome
• free gift
• past history
• unexpected surprise
• sudden crisis
• period of time
• last and final.

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A related expression that is illogical more than it is redundant is “very unique”. Since “unique” means “one of a kind”, adding modifiers of degree such as “very”, “so”, “especially”, “somewhat”, “extremely”, is illogical. “One-of-a-kind-ness” has no gradations; something is either unique or it is not.


Redundant: This is the last and final call for passengers on flight 101

Concise: This is the final call for passengers on flight 101

Redundant Categories

Specific words imply their general categories, so we do not usually have to state both. We know that a period is a segment of time, that pink is a colour, that shiny is an appearance. In each of the following phrases, the general category term can be dropped, leaving just the specific descriptive word:

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• large in size
• often times
• of a bright colour
• heavy in weight
• period in time
• round in shape
• at an early time
• honest in character
• of an uncertain condition
• in a confused state
• unusual in nature
• extreme in degree
• of a strange type 


Redundant: During that time period, developing countries overtook industrialised countries in the production of a certain number of goods of poor quality and low cost.

Concise: During that period, developing countries overtook industrialised countries in the production of a number of cheap, poor quality goods