#AskDrEditor: Borrowing fresh eyes for your academic writing


My editing advice column, Ask Dr. Editor, is now available through UniversityAffairs.ca. The seventh Ask Dr. Editor column describes how to use three of my favourite free online algorithms to support your editing processes: “Borrowing Fresh Eyes for Your Academic Writing.”

Have a question you want me to answer? Contact me or ask me on Twitter at @lertitia.

Cut “is”

This is a writing problem that is easy to correct. (10 words)

This writing problem is easy to correct. (7 words)

When editing your draft, search for the word “is.” In the two sentences above, searching for “is” and rephrasing the sentence enabled the writer to cut 30% of the original word count without losing any of the original sentence’s meaning.

Short Tip: Use the “find” function in your word processor (Ctrl+F) to search for the words “is,” “was,” “are,” and “were.” These words are symptoms of wordiness.

Here’s how and why you should cut “is” as much as possible:

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“This” + verb = unclear

Short Tip:
Search your document for “. This” to find and remove ambiguities in your phrasing.

When you have a sentence that starts with the word “This“, I advise making the second word in your sentence a noun, not a verb. An adjective+noun pairing will also work. This sentence structure clarifies your meaning, and so makes it easier for your reader to follow your argument.


  • The multitude of factors that contribute to Vancouver’s high youth homelessness rate make it difficult for healthcare providers to provide appropriate care to young, vulnerable women. This exacerbates the impact of the opioid crisis.

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