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Common errors and other things best avoided if you want your work to look and sound considered and polished.

Overused words. Do a search of your document to see how many times you have used each of these words. See if they can be omitted or replaced.

  • almost, always, anyhow, anymore, anyway, bit, even, ever, get/got, immediately, incredible, incredulous, interesting, just, little bit, little, look/looked, lot, nearly, never, oh, only, practically, pretty, really, seem/seemed, so, somehow, sort of, suddenly, that, then, turn/turned (as in she turned back to speak to ...), very, well.


  • Avoid 'wrylies' These are unnecessary or feeble adverbs, as in ...he said wryly or sadly, or thoughtfully etc. It is usually better if the sense is conveyed in the speech or if a different verb can be used instead of said, as in she joked, teased, shouted, cried, reflected etc.

  • Avoid any current over-used expressions such as absolutely, awesome, incredible, or as I say.  

  • Avoid popular misused expressions such as begs the question (better to use 'raises the question').

  • The find and replace function will reveal where words are over-used.

Should it be 'me' or 'I'?

The simplest test is to remove the other person and judge according to what remains.

E.g. Please give one of those to Mary and I.

When Mary is removed, it will read as 'Please give one of those to I'.

This is clearly wrong. It needs to say 'Please give one of those to me', hence it also needs to say 'Please give one of those to Mary and me'.

This is true of most sentences where the verb is followed by to, for, by, with, from.

Where the verb is followed by than, we have a choice.

E.g. She is taller than I.

This is acceptable as it is possible to insert a verb after the I. She is taller than I am.

It is also acceptable to say. She is taller than me.

At the beginning of sentences, as the subject, it will always be I.

E.g I am going to the cinema.

My friend and I are going to the cinema.

In common colloquial speech, 'me' is often used. E.g. Me and my friend .... This is not recommended in written work except where it is speech, indicating how the character would speak.



Different to or different from or different than?

In formal language, the preferred usage is 'different from'. E.g. The new version is different from the previous ones in the following respects ...

Others are regional variations.

Compared to or compared with?

Usage has changed.

In the UK, we used to distinguish between these two forms. To compare with something indicates that the items differ in certain characteristics. E.g. Compared with handwritten scripts, typed scripts are easier to read but lose something of the personality of the writer.

To compare to something, used to indicate that the comparison object is as good as the other. E.g. Shakespeare's 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?'. Shakespeare was not attempting to compare his love with a summer's day but saying she was as good as a summer's day.

It is now common to use 'compare to' in most work except where precision is required.


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