© Damen, 2002

7. Repetition of Words.

"Military success is what made the Romans successful in most of their successes."

Success, I get it! Repeated words are more than monotonous. They underscore a writer's failure to see all the facets of an argument because, if you have really thought about your topic and looked at it from several different perspectives, various aspects of the theme will have occurred to you.

Different aspects of a thesis require different expressions, that is, a different word reflecting a different perspective on your paper's theme as it relates to different circumstances. Different, got that? No? Then I'll show you by varying the words in what I just said, and see if the point isn't clearer. "Different aspects of a thesis require their own expressions, that is, a certain word chosen to reflect each individual perspective on the theme as it relates to particular circumstances." Well, even if the second sentence isn't clearer to you, at least it sounds more intelligent.

Especially deadly and monotonous is the repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive sentences: "The Romans conquered Gaul. The Romans spread their culture all over Europe. The Romans ate boatloads of bread." Avoid this sort of repetition, in particular. It lends a tone of speaking down to your reader, as if you were addressing a child, an attitude which won't go over well in academic discourse.

Remember, too, that not repeating words is one way to show how well you've done your homework, because by employing a diverse and subtle variety of expressions you show how hard you've wrestled with the issues before you. That is, the depth and range of your word choice hints at the thoroughness of your preparation. When your writing is richly textured, it's easier to believe your thinking is as well.

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Words and Word Choice


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