英语写作技巧:如何避免用词的重复

在英文写作时经常使用同样的词,特别是在一个句子里出现重复的词语,常让文章显得单调乏味。除非作者是特意用重复来表达某种效果,如强调(马丁路德金在他演讲中说了8次“I have a dream.”)或排比结构, 否则应该减少重复的词语,使句子更加精致生动。我总结了下面几个实用的方法:

1. 省略/删除

有时在一个句子里省略掉重复的部分,语法仍然正确。

It is much harder to segment markets now than in the 70s.

在“than”后省略”to segment markets”。

Apple rules mobile devices; Google, the web; Facebook, social media; Amazon, e-commerce; and Microsoft, enterprise software.

在Google, Facebook, Amazon 和Microsoft后都省略了”rules”。

另外有一些词可能完全是我们出于习惯,经常性加在句子里的,比如quite, very, actually等。重读自己文章时(特别是朗读时)你一般会注意到这些重复又没太多意义的词,可以考虑删除一些。

2. 使用同义/近义词和词组

为避免过多使用同一个词,我们还可以使与其意思相同或相近的词与词组。比如negative effects可以用 “detrimental impact” 或”harmful effects”等来代替。描述冷除了用泛泛的词cold还可以根据具体程度用微冷(cool, brisk), 寒冷(chilly), 或冰冷(freezing, frigid) 代替。

下面一段关于哪些故事内容最吸引读者的陈述中,作者用了几个表示感兴趣的近义词组(be concerned with, curious to know, be fascinated by):

Other stories captured our readers attention too, of course. People seem to be equally concerned with how social media is retraining human brains and upending social norms. They’re curious to know how artificial intelligence will evolve. And they’re fascinated by what Big Data means for society at large.

但选用同(近)意词时,不要在字典里找到一个同义词就生硬地放进来。如果你不熟悉这个词, 有可能会使用不当。因为每个词除了字面意思还有引申的含义如褒贬,程度, 正式或非正式等。大作家Stephen King说过:“Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word.” (即不能靠同义词典来找出该用的词汇)。

想自如地使用恰当的词就需要我们平时多读多积累学习词汇。在之前的一篇文章中,我曾特别讲到了如何积累词汇来提高写作

3. 使用代词或有指代意义的词

使用代词是常见的避免重复的方法。比如:

Seattle-based Nordstrom looks competitive (despite its setback at the Florida Mall). It’s one of the few retailers still growing store count.

还有些帮助替代或省略的词, 如former/latter/counterpart。下面的例子里a句使用重复的词,而b句则巧妙用词避免了重复。

a. Monti and Renzi could not have been more different in their approaches and personalities. The Monti is a sober academic, while Renzi a flamboyant politician.

b. Monti and Renzi could not have been more different in their approaches and personalities. The former is a sober academic, while the latter a flamboyant politician.

 

a. The figure shows that older homeless adults have a greater disease burden than the younger homeless adults.

b. The figure shows that older homeless adults have a greater disease burden than their younger counterparts.

4. 变换句式

有些时候可以靠句式的变化,如利用伴随性状语或从句来减少词语重复。

对比下面例句中的a与b,使用伴随性状语,既表达出动作或情绪伴随性发生,又避免了同一主语的反复出现。

a. She sat down on the ground. She screamed and yelled in a hideous manner.  

b. She sat down on the ground, screaming and yelling in a hideous manner.

 

a. The girls looked up at the three Nazi officers who entered the room. The girls were terrified. 

b. Terrified, the girls looked up at the three Nazi officers who entered the room.” (from Number the Stars

 

此外,利用复合句将两个相关句子用从句连接词连起来,也是避免用词重复的一个方法。如下面纽约时报中的一个例子:

a. MIT’s experiment has sparked discussions among admission deans. Some of the deans say they plan to offer similar opportunities for applicants to send evidence to project-based learning. 

b. MIT’s experiment has sparked discussions among admission deans, some of whom say they plan to offer similar opportunities for applicants to send evidence to project-based learning.  (from NY Times 2017/11).

 

我们写作时经常使用同样的词大多因为两种原因:第一是我们习惯某种说法或无意中偏爱使用某个词。比如当我重读最近写的一篇文章时,我发现其中用了好几次finally一词,其实没有必要,大部分是可以删掉的,这也是为什么写完文章一定要重读,编辑和修改。第二个原因是词汇的匮乏和语法使用的不熟练灵活,这种情况只能靠多读,多积累,和多练习来提高。

 

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