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Wordiness | Eliminating Expletives

Eliminating Expletives

Eliminate Expletives

Manny said, “My teacher told me to stop saying ‘I think’ in my essays.”

“Anything you say or write is what you think or what you believe, isn’t it?” I asked.

“I believe that. At least I think so. In my opinion, you are correct.”

“Yikes! Listen to your teacher,” I advised.

Definition and Examples

An expletive is an unnecessary expression, which does not add meaning to a sentence. Yes, it can be a profanity, but it can also be a word like the “Yes” in this sentence. Often, expletives add emotion or emphasis to one’s speech or writing; however, well-chosen nouns and verbs can usually do the same job and do so with greater precision and brevity.

When speaking, we have quite a few expressions meant to fill space in conversations. Speakers may add, “um,” or “well,” or “you know,” or “uh” when talking to friends. However, in formal speeches, speakers try to eliminate these unnecessary expressions. While these speech fillers are generally not used in writing (except dialogue), writing does have its share of words and phrases inserted into sentences which do not contribute to the meaning.

Position Examples: I believe, I think, in my opinion

Grammatical Examples: There (here) are (were, is, will be)

Read the rules.

There, Their, They're Poster

There, Their, They’re

Avoid unnecessary expressions in formal writing, such as essays, which do not contribute meaning.

  • Do not refer to yourself as the writer in an essay with expressions which state your position or beliefs
  • Avoid using words or phrases at the beginning of sentences, which do not contribute meaning.

Practice

Write the following sentences and [bracket] the unnecessary expressions.

  1. I believe all citizens should vote. There are no excuses not to vote in a democracy.
  2. Here is an important item for the class to discuss. I think students might have strong opinions on this matter.
  3. In my opinion and in the opinion of my friends, we should have a pizza party next week.
  4. There were four contestants in the science fair, which had innovative projects, I think.
  5. Here will be the sign-up list on the table. I believe everyone should volunteer to do something.

Revise the sentence by eliminating unnecessary expressions.

In my opinion, using “I think” or “I believe” is unnecessary.

Answers

  1. [I believe] all citizens should vote. [There are] no excuses not to vote in a democracy.
  2. [Here is] an important item for the class to discuss. [I think] students might have strong opinions on this matter.
  3. [In my opinion] and [in the opinion] of my friends, we should have a pizza party next week.
  4. [There were] four contestants in the science fair, which had innovative projects, [I think.]
  5.  [Here will be] the sign-up list on the table. [I believe] everyone should volunteer to do something.

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  1. Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

    Teaching Essay Strategies

    For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

    Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

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