Can you improve the sentence below? Scroll to the bottom of today’s post for the answer.
On any given day, five or six students will be waiting patiently for a session with a math tutor.
You won’t hear it from anyone else, so maybe it’s just one of my idiosyncrasies. But I think also is a dangerous word for writers.
Writing should build to a climax. “Also” sounds like an afterthought. Nothing weakens a piece more than an “also” idea in the last paragraph. There’s a “by the way” feel just when the piece should be driving to a strong finish.
Instead of “also,” try to work your idea into the paragraph – or use a strong transition like “worst of all,” “best of all,” or “most important.”
We had a wonderful time touring the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We also visited Jim Morrison’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. WEAK
We had a wonderful time visiting the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Jim Morrison’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. STRONG
This version builds to a climax:
We had a wonderful time visiting the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. But what I remember best was Jim Morrison’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. CLIMAX
I try to apply the same principle to conversations and emails. It’s deflating to call someone and say “Congratulations on your award! By the way, can I borrow your punch bowl for a party I’m throwing this weekend?”
Instant Quiz ANSWER
Any given day is a clumsy expression that you can usually avoid.
At least five students are always waiting patiently for a session with a math tutor. CORRECT
Jean Reynolds’ book What Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You can be purchased from Amazon.com and other online booksellers.
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