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Friday, July 15, 2016 Choppiness

One of the things that students ask for the most help with is “choppiness.” When they read their paper, it sounds like it’s choppy and “doesn’t flow well.” The most important problem with “choppiness” is that it makes people believe they have a bad paper. And when people think they have a bad paper, their lack of confidence shows in the rest of their paper. So how do you fix it?

Here are a few ways to make your paper “flow” a little better than before.

Check your word usage.

Are you using the same words in consecutive sentences? This can make the reader feel like they are reading the same sentence over again, which is very likely. Because ideas are expressed in words, using the same words over again could be repeating an idea that doesn’t need to be repeated, so watch out for that.

  • Example: The water buffalo is a real animal that has gigantic horns and enjoys playing in the water. The water buffalo enjoys the water because that’s where it gets all its food.
  • Change to: The water buffalo is a real animal that has gigantic horns. It enjoys playing in the water because that’s where it gets all its food.

Notice in the above example that “enjoying the water” was an idea that was repeated. Taking it out of one of the sentences makes it more succinct.

Check your sentence structure.

For this option, make sure to check how your sentences are put together. If you always start with the subject and then use your verb, the sentences will all sound the same. Try to vary it.

  • Example: Bob was playing with his brand new puppy. Bob enjoyed throwing a tennis ball to the dog.
  • Change to: Bob was playing with his brand new puppy. Throwing a tennis ball to the dog was something he enjoyed.

While the above example breaks the “sentence length” rule below, you can see how changing the sentence structure makes the ideas in the sentences stand out more than the sentences themselves.

Check your sentence length.

This is a sure-fire way to get rid of choppiness. My technique for removing this in my papers is drawing a large line at the beginning and end of each sentence and looking at the sentence lengths. Usually around the “choppy” parts of my papers, the sentences are all short and clumped together. While it is not bad to have some short sentences in your paper, varying the sentence length will help your reader flow from idea to idea instead of just sentence-to-sentence.

If you’re still having a hard time, come visit us at the Writing Center! Helping students write is our job, and we love helping people with it.

Posted at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)
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