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Transkills: supporting transition to University


A couple of further points about trying too hard with your writing. Many students now have fallen into the habit of trying to express themselves in what they consider to be sophisticated writing. Too often, this gets in the way of sense, or is just plain wrong. For some reason, many students do not like writing “X states” or “X argues” or “X notes”, and instead come up with approximate or plainly misleading alternatives to these perfectly good words, such as “X implies”, “X infers”, “X identifies”, and so on. Here’s another example of particularly bad writing:

‘I take the stance that via Europe’s colonisation of the Americas, vulnerability, often associated with uncertain resource possession, diminished whilst the clearance/settlement within foreign realms along with the deportation of indigenous working practices (transfer of technology) proved fruitful to the rate of European development’.

Whilst we more or less know what this is supposed to mean, some words are wrongly used and the sense of the sentence is not clear. It could be rewritten as, say, ‘Colonisation of the Americas reduced the vulnerability of Europe to pressure on resources, whilst the transfer of European technology and working practices also promoted development’. Even so the ideas here could be expressed more clearly: in general, you should aim to express your ideas in the most straightforward way possible. Shorter sentences are usually associated with clearer writing, and are often very punchy and attention-grabbing. Like this. At the very least, vary your sentences so that they are not all long and long-winded ones.