7 Solutions for Repetitive Sentence Structure
It takes little time or effort to spruce up a sentence that includes repetitive-sounding phrases. Here are some examples of minor revisions that eliminate echoes of phrasing:
1. “Six models are available, from a one-bedroom bungalow for $81,000 to a three-bedroom, two-story city house for about $200,000.”
Avoid the “this for that, this for that” structure of this sentence by varying the second for phrase: “Six models are available, from an $81,000 one-bedroom bungalow to a three-bedroom, two-story city house priced in the low $200,000s.”
2. “Locations range from Sonoma, Berkeley, and Crockett in the San Francisco Bay Area to Shelter Island in Washington State.”
The “this in that” repetition here is resolved by flipping
the city/state order of the second element by using the possessive form of the larger geographic element: “Locations range from Sonoma, Berkeley, and Crockett in the San Francisco Bay Area to Washington State’s Vashon Island.”
This type of solution is often useful even when no repetition occurs; “Chicago’s downtown hub,” for example, flows more smoothly than “the downtown hub of Chicago.” (Also, note in the example above that the capitalization of state is correct; this is an anomalous usage when distinguishing between the state of Washington and Washington, DC.)
3. “Her designs include the Vitra company’s fire station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome in London, and a tram station and car park in Strasbourg, France.”
Introducing variations in this reference to buildings in various locations reduces the number of prepositions from four to two: “Her designs include the Vitra company’s fire station, in Weil am Rhein, Germany; the Mind Zone, at London’s Millennium Dome; and a Strasbourg, France, tram station and car park.”
Note that because formal writing calls for setting off restrictive phrases — without a comma, “the Mind Zone at London’s Millennium Done,” for example, implies that other Mind Zones are to be found elsewhere — the three elements of this sentence have been separated by semicolons.
4. “The story bridges the stylistic gap between the dreams of Tim Burton and the nightmares of David Lynch.”
The fix in the second example, above, can be applied to names of people as well as those of places: “The story bridges the stylistic gap between the dreams of Tim Burton and David Lynch’s nightmares.”
5. “They range from venerable standards such as House Beautiful, with a circulation of 7.6 million, to the local up-and-comer, Dwell, with a circulation of about 250,000.”
Substitution of “which has” for a weak with and elegant variation of one word strengthens this sentence: “They range from venerable standards such as House Beautiful, with a circulation of 7.6 million, to the local up-and-comer, Dwell, which has a readership of about 250,000.”
Various revisions of the final phrase are possible. You could choose a more vivid verb and write “which boasts 250,000 readers,” for example, but be careful about weighted words such as boasts and claims. Also, in some sentences, the grammatical structure of “the 250,000-reader Dwell” is valid, but applying the template here produces awkward wording.
6. “In the white winters, you can sled or cross-country ski, or drive to the North Lake Tahoe ski resorts. In the hot, bright summers, there’s hiking through giant forests, climbing the towering Sierra Buttes, and swimming in the 130 nearby lakes. In the autumn, the deciduous trees glow with vivid fall colors, and in the spring, the masses of wildflowers create a psychedelic dreamscape.”
The repetitive “in the (noun)” introductory phrases in this paragraph are mitigated by some variety in the respective following phrases, but further differentiation is easily accomplished: “In the white winters, you can sled or cross-country ski, or drive to the North Lake Tahoe ski resorts. During the hot, bright summers, there’s hiking through giant forests, climbing the towering Sierra Buttes, and swimming in the 130 nearby lakes. Come autumn, the deciduous trees glow with vivid fall colors, and when spring arrives, the masses of wildflowers create a psychedelic dreamscape.”
7. “She says that over the past month, she’s made over 350 calls on her cell phone.”
Avoid using a word more than once in a sentence, especially if it has different meanings each time: “She says that over the past month, she’s made more than 350 calls on her cell phone.” (But generally, when you come across over used in the sense of “more than,” don’t automatically correct it unless your workplace’s style guide mandates it. If you believe that over, as an alternative to “more than,” is not valid, get over it: Many usage manuals and style guides accept either term to mean “in excess of.”)
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