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Unnecessary Words

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Effective speaking and writing express the meaning of a sentence clearly without using unnecessary words. Additional words are not needed to describe words whose meanings are clear. It is not necessary, for example, to say “tiny germ” because all germs are tiny. In the same way, it is not necessary to say “whispered quietly” because whispering is a quiet way of speaking. As you learn English, try to write and speak without unnecessary words.

Also, writers sometimes use two words that mean almost the same thing when one of the words would be sufficient. The expression “throughout the entire evening” and “ascend up the stairs” have unnecessary words. Throughout carries the meaning of entire. Ascend carries the meaning of up.


A. Identify the unnecessary word in each sentence. Write the word.

  1. Vancouver and Toronto are cities with tall skyscrapers.
  2. Albert Einstein, one of the pioneers of modern physics, was a brilliant genius.
  3. The sidewalks, trees, and shrubs were covered with frozen ice.
  4. A wealthy millionaire donated the money to build the new school gymnasium.
  5. Two of the faucets were for fresh water, and the third was for salty seawater.
  6. Many of the watching viewers stayed up late to see the television program.
  7. I used fastening glue to attach the pictures to the pages of the album.
  8. The neighbourhood’s new garden was planted in a round circle and resembled a wagon wheel.

B. Read the sentences below. Find which sentences contain an unnecessary word.

  1. The little girl had red rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes.
  2. Sabrina’s mother told her to hang up the phone immediately and promptly.
  3. A huge furry spider dropped from the ceiling onto my clean pillow.
  4. We had to hurry and rush so we wouldn’t miss the train.
  5. The Robertsons brought fruit to the picnic that was very tasty and delicious.
  6. The two armies battled throughout the night.

C. Notice the underlined words as you read the following paragraph. Are they necessary or unnecessary?

 The study of (1) underwater marine life can be fascinating (2) and interesting. The balance of sea life is complicated. Although many (3) marine sea creatures are rivals for food, they sometimes cooperate (4) together. For example, one species of clam that lives in the Great Barrier Reef is assisted in (5) feeding itself by (6) small little seaweeds that live in its mouth. Similar cooperation takes place (7) thousands of miles away in the Red Sea. There a special kind of (8) fish works with a friendly shrimp for the protection of both. The fish’s job is (9) the task of guarding the hold in which they both live while the shrimp (10) cleans it. This kind of cooperation may seem unusual (11) and uncommon, but there are many examples of it in nature. There is even a special name for it – symbiosis.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 March 2010 04:53  

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