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The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
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Section 1.10

Editing for Grammar and Style

When you have dealt with the more basic matters included in the revision stage, it is time to review the document carefully for correctness. As you edit your document, however, continue to do whatever you can to improve accuracy, clarity, conciseness, coherence, and appropriateness. For example, could any sentences be made more effective by restructuring?

No matter how sound your document may be technically, your credibility will be undermined by errors in sentence construction or grammar, word choice, usage, punctuation, mechanics, or spelling. If you need more information about grammatical elements, refer to parts of sentences and parts of speech. If English is not your native language, check the list of common ESL writing problems.

Finally, have you used the language of your sources appropriately and give them proper credit? If your document is supposed to follow an established style for citing sources and creating a reference list, have you followed the right style correctly and consistently?

When you come to sentences that are hard to follow, locate the main agent (thing doing something) and the action (thing being done):

  1. Circle the main subject or agent of the sentence. This noun will identify the who or what of the sentence.
  2. Circle the main action word. This verb is the key to the action (thing being done or state of being) of the sentence.
  3. Whenever possible, organize the sentence around the subject and verb. Make the agent the subject and the action the main verb of the sentence.

  4. Weak

    The solid was contaminated [main action] as a result of a leaking cleaning solution [main agent].


    A leaking cleaning solution contaminated the solid.

Here are some ways to tighten up your prose:

  1. Make your paragraphs coherent. If necessary, rearrange sentences for better paragraph flow and logic.
  2. Use the active voice whenever the passive voice is not clearly more appropriate.
  3. Eliminate unnecessary words and phrases.
  4. Simplify your sentences. Break long sentences into manageable units.
  5. Condense repetitious or closely related material. Look for ways to combine or delete words and sentences that repeat information.

  6. Be specific. Replace vague phrases and words with more descriptive ones.
  7. Use words accurately. Look for phrases and words that don't stand up to scrutiny.

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## Editing for Grammar/Style ##
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