|This page is an essay, containing the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
|This page in a nutshell: Remove redundant "that"; Remove "had" (verb), when the verb in the past is enough; Check "at", "on", "in", etc related to time or places; Make sentences concise; Turn unneeded passive voices into active voices|
Points to remember
They describe or modify the noun. An adjective clause is something like "That's my neighbour, who is always smiling". An adjetive phrase is "That's my neighbour, always smiling".
Adjectives should not be overused. Nouns and verbs are better.
In most cases, the adjective goes before the noun, such as "the black cat". Exceptions:
- indefinite pronouns (something, someone, etc) go first. "This is something weird"
- a few adjectives go after the noun, such "president elect"
Adjectives that denote relation with a noun that goes with capital letters (such as countries or people) go with capital letter as well.
Adjectives can take a comparative form (the noun compared with something else, such as "taller") or a superlative one (the noun compared with a universe of elements, such as "tallest"). The adjective is modified with er and est, unless it ends with y, in that case it is modified with ier and iest. When it has more than one syllable, it is kept the same way, with more or most before it. Both systems must not be mixed (no "most tallest"). They should not be used with adjectives that are already a comparison. Some adjectives do not accept comparison degrees. "As (adjective) as" compares equal degrees.
"Fewer" for measurable things, "less" for unmeasurable ones.
Order of adjectives
- Subjetive adjectives
- Size or shape
They link terms, such as For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So. When they link two different clauses there should be a comma, unless the clauses are really short. Sometimes a comma is used to link in a same sentence two independent clauses capable to stand alone ("It's raining, take an umbrella"), but it's better to use the right conjunction ("It's raining, so take an umbrella") or to split the sentence in two.
Sentences should not start with "And" or "But". "Nor" is used little, if it is, it should be "Neither X nor Y"
"Like" should be used to point similarities, and "such as" to point objects with similarities.
"That" is used to connect a clause subordinated to a previous verb. In most cases it can be removed. "He thinks [that] the time has come". Sometimes this breaks the sentence, but can be fixed with a comma. "Remember that the last time we failed" -> "Remember, the last time we failed". "That" should be kept in 3 cases: when there's a temporal modifier between the verb and the clause, when the verb is long delayed, and when it helps to clarify who said or did wh
There's a similar thing with "X had (action in past tense)...". It is correct when it's something in the past in relation to another past action, but this other action should be in the same sentence, not at a later paragraph. "The president had said 'xxx', some days before X action" is correct. "The president had said 'xxx'.", alone, isn't, even if the other action is refered later, here it should be "The president said 'xxx'".
This does not apply to "had" when it's used to denote possesion.
When "Because" is used, the sentence should contain another idea. "Y because X", "Because X, Y", never "Because X".
- Coun nouns
- Many (cats)
- A few (cats)
- Few (cats)
- Several (cats)
- A couple of (cats)
- None of the (cats)
- Non-count nouns
- Not much (editing)
- A little (editing)
- Little (editing)
- A bit of (editing)
- A good deal of (editing)
- A great deal of (editing)
- No (editing)
- Both ones
- All of the (cats)/(editing)
- Some (cats)/(editing)
- Most of the (cats)/(editing)
- Enough (cats)/(editing)
- A lot of (cats)/(editing)
- Lots of (cats)/(editing)
- Plenty of (cats)/(editing)
- A lack of (cats)/(editing)
"Many" and "Much" are better than "A lot of", "lots of" or "plenty of".
"A little" and "A few" are for quantities that, even if small, are enough for the needs. "Little" and "Few" are for when it's not enough. "I have few books about the topic" means those books are not enough, "I have a few books about the topic", means that, even if a few, they contain the needed information.
"Much" is for questions and negative statements, unless it's "Much of"
"Most of the" works for both count and uncount nouns, but with plural count nouns the "of the" is removed. "Most of the lawyers" is written "Most lawyers"
A, An and The
"The" is used
- for one-of-a-kind objects (The Moon)
- for abstract concepts (the new ideas, the rise of unemployment)
- for a noun that makes reference to something mentioned earlier in the text
- for geographical places
- for pluralized names
- for institutions or groups
- for newspapers
"a" is used for words that start with consonants, "an" for vowels or sounds like vowels.
Both a/an and the can be used for generic statements. "The" works for all members of a group in an unspecific way, and "a" for a random unit of the group. "The dogs are good pets" and "Surely a dog made this mess".
Languajes, sports and academic disciplines do not use articles. Language names (Spanish, Italian, English) may also be used for peoples of a certain nationality or social group, in this cae "The" is used. "The Spanish peoples speak Spanish".
There are collective nouns, that make reference to a group of smaller elements, such as "family", "children", "dozen", crowd", etc. They are used in singular when something is said about the whole group, and in plural when something is said about its individual elements.
- Time: "At" is for specific times (at 15:00), "On" is for days or dates (on May 25), and "In" is for months, years or wide time frames (in 1810, in winter, etc).
- Places: "At" is specific adresses (at Estados Unidos 1200), "On" for streets, and "In" for other areas (towns, countries, states, continents, etc)
- Time 2: "For" is for time measurements (she has lived here for 3 years), "since" is for specific times cited as turning points (she has lived here since 2007)
Text may have unneeded prepositions. Those must be removed. For example, "He's inside
of the hall".
Sentences should not have nneeded words, and paragraphs should not have unneeded sentences. Each word should be important for the text.
Remove parts of the sentence that say the same thing twince. For example "I did it twince in the day, at 12:00 and 14:00" could be simply "I did it at 12:00 and 14:00".
If the same thing can be said with less words, use less words. "He saw it with his own eyes" could be simply "he saw it". Long phrases may be reduced to shorter ones, or even single words: if there is no content loss, it should be done. "The X which or who are usually (but not always) involving phrases that may be reformulated. Intensifiers like very, usually, surely, extremely, etc; are usually unneeded.
The text shouldn't be either a number of "the cat is under the chair" simple sentences. There shouldn't be too much sentences toguether about what something "is", without telling what does that something "does" (meaning, actions that are more than just a description of the current state).
Modifiers are words and expressions that modify an element in the sentence. "I have $2" states the number, "I have only $2" does the same but also explains that it's not enough. Modifiers should be right before the word or noun they modify. Some modifier adverbs may turn the meaning unclear unless placed at a better site: "People that win the lottery often can get a new house" (do people need to win the lottery often in order to get a new house, or do most people buy a new house after winning the lottery once?). This may be clarified as either "People that often win the lottery can get a new house" or "People that win the lottery can often get a new house".
A paragraph should start with a sentence (or a pair) that explains the main idea, and then explain, develop or support it in the following sentences. There should be no sentences adding unimportant information or moving the focus somewhere else. Change of focus should be done at a new paragraph. Information that is unimportant at a given paragraph may be used at another one that deals with that idea. Narrations may not follow this, but should try to do to a certain degree. And of course, they shouldn't have just 1 or 2 sentences.
Verbs can be in the active voice ("Palermo kicked the ball") or in the passive ("The ball was kicked by Palermo"). If possible, the active voice is better. A sentence should not mix active and passive voice (such as in "Palermo kicked the ball, and a goal was scored")
Passive voice may be accepted when the emphasis is on the object the action has been done to ("The ball was kicked so hard that it broke the net") or when the actor is unimportant ("The goal could be seen from anywhere in the stadium"). It is important, even mandatory, when a technical process is described. It is also properly used when the object of an introductory sentence becomes the subject of later sentences ("Maradona introduced Palermo in the field at the XX minute. Palermo became the main player of the match, and scored 3 goals")
- Simple tense (I write/wrote/will write), the action is in the present, past or future in relation to the writer.
- Perfect tense (I have written/had written/will have written), the action was or will be completed before amother action or time
- Progressive tense (I am writing/was writing/will be writing), the acton is done in an ongoing manner; there are both simple and perfect progressive tenses
Many sentences have a main verb, and a secondary verb subordinated to it. When the main verb is in the past or past perfect the subordinated verb must be in the past or past perfect. If it isn't, the subordinated verb may be in ay tense, to suit the sentence needs.
- simple present-simple present: actions done in the same time (I am happy because the day is shiny)
- simple present-simple past: for an action done before the current one (I am happy because my uncle gave me a present)
- simple present-present perfect: a time period from some point in the past to the present (I am happy because I have finished my duties)
- simple past-simple past: an action finished before another, both in the past (The mission failed because the complot was discovered)
- simple past-past perfect: to show an earlier action (The mission failed because the agent was away from his duty)
- simple past-simple present: to state a general truth (Galileo told that Earth spins around the Sun)
- present perfect or past perfect: always followed by simple past
- simple future-simple present: two actions in the future, taking place at the same time (He will leave the city by the time the bus leaves the station)
- simple future-simple past: an action previous to a future one (The mission will fail if the police discovered the complot before the fixed time)
- simple future-present perfect: a future action previous to another future one (The mission will fail if our agent has not finished his work in time)
- future perfect: always followed by simple present or present perfect
Transition of ideas
- Adittion: again, also, and, and then, besides, equally important, finally, first, further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, last, moreover, next, second, still, too
- Comparison: also, in the same way, likewise, similarly
- Contrast: although, and yet, at the same time, but at the same time, despite that, even so, even though, for all that, however, in contrast, in spite of, instead, nevertheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, on the other hand, otherwise, regardless, still, though, yet
- Example: after all, as an illustration, even, for example, for instance, in conclusion, indeed, in fact, in other words, in short, it is true, of course, namely, specifically, that is, to illustrate, thus, truly
- Summary: all in all, altogether, as has been said, finally, in brief, in conclusion, in other words, in particular, in short, in simpler terms, in summary, on the whole, that is, therefore, to put it differently, to summarize
- Time sequence: after a while, afterward, again, also, and then, as long as, at last, at length, at that time, before, besides, earlier, eventually, finally, formerly, further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, in the past, last, lately, meanwhile, moreover, next, now, presently, second, shortly, simultaneously, since, so far, soon, still, subsequently, then, thereafter, too, until, until now, when
Contrast of ideas
Some words to make contrast with a previous clause or sentence are However (sin embargo), But (pero, sino), Nevertheless (no obstante), Yet (aún así). Although (aunque) may be used at the begining of the sentence, Even Though is a stronger version of Although.
"Besides" mean "in addition". It can be at the begining of the sentence (Besides doing X, Y), or at the begining of a sentence linking it to a clause in the previous one (X. Besides, Y). This use may be replaced with "Moreover", which is more formal. "Anyway" and "In any case" are informal.
"Otherwise" can be an adverb of manner or a conjuction. As an adverb of manner it goes after the verb and means "in a different way" (if you build it otherwise, it won't work the same way). As a conjunction it means "if not / or else". (he must be sleeping, otherwise he would answer the phone.)
"So" can be a conjunction, or an adverb of degree. As an adverb, it goes before the adjetive (he's so smart). As a conjunction, it means "in consequence" or "as a result" and goes before the result clause (it's raining, so I took an umbrella). "therefore" is a more formal conjunction for this.
"Still" and "Yet" are similar to "nevertheless". There's a clause, and a second clause that took place even considering the first clause that may seem to make that unlikely. "The music of that band is outdated and predictable, yet it became a success".
The general rule is to write in text the numbers of one or two words, and as numbers the more complex ones (note that "forty-two" would be one word).
More specific, we use numbers
- for units of measurement (5 meters)
- for decimals and fractions
- when there are many numbers involved
- dates and years
We use text
- for inexact numbers
- for aproximations
- when the number is at the begining of the sentence
"Even if it rains, I will go to the concert". "Even though it rains, I will go to the concert". The meaning is different. "Even if" means "whether or not", and in this sentence it means that the rain is just a posibility, that won't influence the outcome. "Even though" means "despite the fact", and in this sentence it means that it is raining (as a fact) but the outcome stays the same anyway.
"Even", alone, works as an adverb, and can't replace "even if" or "even though". It's used to mean that something is more than expected, or less, and this is something surprising, in a seeming contradiction with something said before, or to emphasize a word. For example "He can't drive a bus, he can't even drive a car!" (the driving habilities of the subject are less than expected).
"Even so" is a prepositional phrase, also used to introduce a concept that may be surprising. It is used to connect clauses.
- crave, hunger, thirst, starve, lust — have a craving, appetite, or great desire for
- fancy, go for, take to — have a fancy or particular liking or desire for
- miss — feel or suffer from the lack of
- hope — be optimistic; be full of hope; have hopes
- wish — hope for; have a wish
- wish, wish well — feel or express a desire or hope concerning the future or fortune of
- wish, care, like — prefer or wish to do something
- itch, spoil — have a strong desire or urge to do soemthing
- like — want to have
- ambition — have as one's ambition
- feel like — have an inclination for something or some activity
- envy, begrudge — be envious of; set one's heart on
- lust after, lech after — have a strong sexual desire for
- hanker, long, yearn — desire strongly or persistently
- need — be in want of
- seek — try to get or reach
The use of contractions (he's, he'll, can't, etc) belongs to informal speaking. Articles should use uncontracted verbs (he is, he will, can not, etc)
- did not (action) -> (negative action, if exists)
- dispatch (someone to somewhere) -> send
- designated -> appointed
- convinced -> persuaded ("convince" is for ideas, "persuade" is for influencing into making an action)
- compose -> comprise (parts compose a whole, a whole is comprised of parts)