One question I hate is “What is your grammar pet peeve”. I hate it because there are so many grammar faux pas that it is difficult for me to pick only one.
I will say this though: one thing that greatly irritates me is superfluousness. I prefer language that delivers the message using as few words as possible.
Here are 4 common phrases structures I frequently come across in my editing work:
1. A number of
I don’t understand why this is such a popular phrase. It’s nonspecific and while people think it means one thing it doesn’t mean anything. For example, “a number of apples” could simply mean 1 apple; after all, one is a number. Use several instead.
2. Period of time
As compared to a period of ketchup? Period, by it’s very definition, means “a length of time during which a series of events or an action takes place or is completed”. When you put it that way, “period of time” means “time of time”. Just use period.
If you’re speaking in the present tense, using words like “currently” or “now” is redundant. Speaking in the present implies what you’re saying is current or in the now.
4. Present progressive instead of simple present
The present progressive tense (e.g. I am walking) has its place, but too often people use it when the simple present (e.g. I walk) would suffice. Compare the following:
- Each week, we ensure that our departments are working well.
- Each week, we ensure that our departments work well.
Being able to catch wordiness in writing takes time and lots of practice, but these 4 steps can give you a head start.
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