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The excessive use of 'and'

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The word 'and' is an indispensable conjoining tool in any form and discipline of writing. Although, a repetition of the word can make a paragraph too tedious to read, and it only lengthens a sentence unnecessarily.

Synonyms do exist: - together with

  • along with

  • with

  • as well as

  • in addition to

  • including

  • also, too, besides, furthermore, moreover

  • plus, what's more

But using these words under certain contexts doesn't fit or look right.

How exactly can 'and' be used sparingly

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5 answers

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Usually "and" is indeed dispensable and the fact that you wrote it is a clue to check if it is. Using that sentence as an example, I can eliminate "and" with a semicolon, or a period.

Usually "and" is indeed dispensable; the fact that you wrote it is a clue to check if it is.

Usually "and" is indeed dispensable. The fact that you wrote it is a clue to check if it is.

Another example:

He picked up the ball and threw it across the field. The dog chased after it at full gallop.

Can be transformed.

He picked up the ball. Waving it to get the dog's rapt attention, he threw it across the field. The dog chased after it at full gallop.

Sentence proximity links sentences, you don't have to do it grammatically. Readers understand that one thing follows another; so "and" is very seldom necessary. (Similarly, "then" is very seldom necessary.)

Sometimes "and" IS necessary to express simultaneity, but if you aren't talking about simultaneous properties or events, it can probably be eliminated by rewording, punctuation, or breaking sentences and adding material.

When you feel it IS absolutely the right word, then don't worry about it. Readers understand necessary words. It won't seem "excessive" if you only use it when you must.

"And" can also be a symptom of over-emphasis in description, too frequently trying to use two adjectives for emphasis when one would do.

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5

Don't worry about it and use "and" when you need to.

Some words in writing are effectively invisible. They perform such basic grammatical functions that it is very rare for readers to be grated by their presence. For example, you'll see people argue that ending dialogue with "he/she said" almost every line is actually preferable to trying to use as many different synonyms for "said" as you can. A conjunction as simple and unobtrusive as "and" falls in the same category.

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4

As an aside:

There are proper and improper usages of the word 'and.' If the word's being used solely to lengthen sentences, there might be a problem.

The purpose of the word 'and' is to connect paired clauses. This can be useful grammatically and rhythmically.

Her hair was long, and she pinned it back with barrettes.

Her hair was long and unwashed.

Her hair was long, and she wished again, as she had every day for the past week, that she could hack the entire mess off.

Those all make sense. They are a natural use of the word 'and' because they join logically paired ideas.

Her hair was long, and she grabbed her car keys.

That is not a good use of the word 'and.'

/end aside.

How can 'and' be used sparingly? Id say simply cut it out in all instances where it is not needed (example: joining two independent clauses.). (The question is odd, in that reducing the use of 'and' seems like a simple problem to solve... )

If the concern is that the writing becomes stilted or choppy as a result, then spend a little time learning other parts of speech to lengthen sentences.

In a moment of quiet, she realized her hair had grown longer than it had been in years, due, no doubt, to the ashram's pervasive philosophy of renouncing worldly values including any adherence to conventional standards of beauty.

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3

If you read closely you can very often identify certain words and phrases that authors prefer to use. Those will be used far more often than in writing from other people that you read. Sometimes it's just a subconscious feeling that tells you who the author is, for example if you are often reading texts written by your colleagues who have been published on a blog under a technical account that belongs to someone. At other times it will be obvious, such as when a certain fantasy author is probably a cat-person because every race and important character gets a comparison with cats at some point in the story.

The thing to keep an eye on here is to have your own style, but not letting your little quirks be troublesome. It's okay if your beta readers notice a thing or two about your writing style, even if it's that you like to write long sentences containing "and" and "or" when not strictly necessary. If that's what sounds good to you and what feels natural it's fine. It's not fine if your beta readers start telling you that they can't follow your sentences anymore and are tired because you are using "and" at least three times every couple sentences.

Put your writing aside for a couple days and read it out loud to yourself and you will notice anything that's "excessive" - and probably a couple things that are not as bad in reality as they sound to yourself. Many people are a lot harsher to themselves than they would be to others, which means that you can easily be your best critic. I'd still recommend to ask a couple of your beta readers to keep an eye out for anything excessive or unusual. If they notice you should think about whether that's something you want or not.

Other than that the best advice is to look at your favourite authors to see how they are solving the problem and a look at your least favourite authors to see what they are doing wrong in your opinion. In the end it always depends on your target audience and how your writing should read to that target audience.

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2

"And" can be used sparingly in exactly the same way that "it" and "yes" and "up" and "the" and "how" can be used sparingly. Which is not at all. There are words that are full of evocative power (particularly when used in the right combination) and there are words that are just the glue that holds the language together, that create the conjunctions between the evocative words. These are the utility words of the language. They don't call attention to themselves. They just to the scut work of grammar, quietly and efficiently. There is no need to worry in the least about how often you are using them (though, in the case of "and" you might need to think about whether you are needlessly creating run-on sentences). The very worst thing you could do would be to replace these humble utility words with bigger, more obtrusive words. Doing so will only detract attention from the evocative words that are supposed to be the stars of the show.

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