Wikipedia:Elements of Style improvement project

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The Elements of Style is a style guide written by Cornell University professor William Strunk, Jr. and then later revised by E.B. White. (A version of the book can be read online here). Part III of the book, "Elementary Principles of Composition," lists common English phrases that are tedious or unclear.

This page is a tool for finding such phrases within Wikipedia articles so readers and editors can replace them with suggested and nearly universally applicable alternatives. Use good judgement, however – it is unwise to do a blind, automatic substitution using AutoWikiBrowser or other tools, and it is best to read the sentence in context to ensure that the replacement fits. Other changes may be needed.

List of suggested improvements[edit]

In The Elements of Style, Strunk has a list of commonly used phrases where words can be omitted.

Use the associated Google search to find the individual articles in need of improvement. Note that Google's index may be slightly out of date.

  • "There is no doubt but that" --> remove or replace with "no doubt" or "doubtless"
    • Google site search (0 hits)
    • Note "there is no doubt that" is not always the same as "no doubt" or "doubtless," so attention to subtle meaning is helpful in making these edits.
  • "The question as to whether" --> replace with "whether"
  • "Because of the fact that" --> replace with "because"
  • "Owing to the fact that" --> replace with "because"
  • "The fact that --> "That"
  • "Each and every one" --> replace with "Every one"
  • "Doubt but" and "Help but"
    • Doubt but: Google site search (195 hits; many false positives and mostly talk; took care of the few true positives)
    • Help but: Google site search (1,950 hits, many false positives; )
  • "In spite of the fact that" --> replace with "in spite of" or "though" or "although" or "despite"
    • Google site search (371 hits)
    • (Please note: unlike any of the rest of the suggestions currently (28 October 2005) on this page, changing "in spite of the fact that" to "in spite of" or "despite" requires a *further* change in the construction sentence to be correct. The change takes the following pattern: "In spite of the fact that he needed the money..." becomes "Despite his needing the money..." or "Despite his having needed the money..."; the subject pronoun becomes a possessive and the verb changes to a gerund (or to the compound 'having' followed by the past participle.) Changing it to "although" or "though" works without further changes, however.)
  • "There is no doubt that" --> remove or replace with "no doubt" or "doubtless"
  • "seeing that" --> replace with "since"
    • Google site search (1,430 hits; many fewer than that and most false positives; fixed the few that were extant)
  • "being that" --> replace with "since"
  • "Used for _____ purposes" --> replace with "used for _____" (example: "used for recreational purposes" --> "used for recreation")
  • "As yet" --> replace with "yet" or remove if appropriate ("Man has not been to Mars...nor woman either.")"
  • "Whether or not" --> often appropriate to replace with "whether"
    • Google site search (15,300 hits)
    • (Be careful when replacing 'whether or not' with 'whether' as it is often incorrect to do so.)