Dissertation Guide

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I need to lose ten per cent – what do I do?

“We had a competition among our sub-editors for who could take the most adjectives out of one particular 900-word piece. The runner-up saved 14 lines of text. The winner saved 17 lines.”

“I always think about what it says in Strunk and White’s Elements of Style: “Omit needless words.” In fact I think the authors repeat the phrase several times to make their point. Omit needless words. Omit needless words. Omit needless words. Omit needless words. Well, I guess you get the point.”

‘I think you should get to know your own wordy phrases. I used to write “in actual fact” rather than “in fact” and loads of other circumlocutory stuff. Choose some of your own sentences at random and see if you can knock words out and still keep the meaning. That way you may find out what you keep doing. Otherwise, look for repetition or irrelevance. Sometimes you have to leave out a good piece of writing because it is not relevant, but that same piece of writing may form the basis for another good paper in the future.”