Don’t write beautifully, write precisely….

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to be taught by me will have heard me say,

“Don’t write beautifully, write precisely….”

Nowhere is this more relevant than in the use of conjunctive adverbs/connectives/cause and effect signal words (whatever you or Michael Gove wants to call them). There is lots of advice on how to use them. Have a page.

At some stage in our education we are taught that thus, however, therefore, despite, etc. are incredibly powerful words to make us seem clever.

Unfortunately, relatively few people seem to learn before starting a PhD either what they actually mean  or when, or even whether, to use them. The result is that they are sprinkled like confetti, randomly.

My friend Gabrielle Lyons puts it this way: “They are taught that connectors makes their work look more coherent. Sadly, they haven’t learned that connectors help to express logic: they don’t produce it.”

The worst mistake is using words that imply causality where no causality is evidenced, but the second worst mistake is often just using them in the first place, too often they are redundancies. When you are line editing, go through and strike out any that do not move the meaning on.

A short table of conjunctive adverbs (and one annoying phrase) and their meanings or uses.

accordingly as a result
also in addition; too.
besides apart from.
consequently as a result (there must be causality involved)
conversely introducing a statement or idea which reverses one that has just been made or referred to
despite without being affected by; in spite of.
equally in the same manner or to the same extent, or, in addition and having the same importance (used to introduce a further comment)
finally used to introduce a final point or reason.
furthermore in addition
hence as a consequence; for this reason
henceforth from this or that time on
however used to introduce a statement that contrasts with or seems to contradict something that has been said previously.
In fact Just don’t use this one: if it’s a fact you don’t need to reinforce it. If it isn’t a fact it doesn’t become one for making the claim.
indeed used to emphasize a statement or response confirming something already suggested
likewise in the same way; also.
meanwhile in the intervening period of time, or, at the same time
moreover as a further matter; besides (an intensification, adding detail)
nevertheless in spite of that; notwithstanding; all the same
nonetheless in spite of that;
on the other hand alternatively (which is also a less coloquial form)
otherwise in other respects; apart from that.
significantly in a sufficiently great or important way as to be worthy of attention
similarly used to indicate a similarity between two facts or events
subsequently after a particular thing has happened; afterwards (unlike consequently, it does not imply causality)
therefore for that reason; consequently (there must be causality)
thus as a result or consequence of this; therefore (there must be causality)

 

 

 

 

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