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Repetition of key words and phrases

Repetition is a key part of cohesion.

As a writer, you may worry about being “repetitive”, and feel that using synonyms may be more interesting for the reader. But this approach can be problematic. Firstly, it is difficult to find exact synonyms that really do mean exactly the same thing. Also, if too many synonyms are used for the same thing in your text, readers may be confused and start wondering whether you are still referring to the same thing. Therefore, you should repeat key words, especially technical terms, systematically throughout your text.

Example (1) demonstrates reader-friendly repetition of the nouns danger and nuclear:

(1)

On a global scale, the dangers of nuclear power are hard to ignore. These dangers were amply demonstrated in 2011 by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor disaster, for example, which resulted in the radioactive contamination of an area twice the size of Stockholm [4]. Such accidents are not the only threat: the dangers of terrorism or nuclear warfare are always present.

There are, however, common synonyms for a number of frequently used nouns or verbs which can be used to vary the text, for example, decline and drop in example (2):

(2)

The incidence of lung cancer has declined in the US. This decline can be attributed to a massive drop in smoking and the introduction of novel treatments. These measures have had a marked effect throughout the country.

Using a thesaurus

If you use a thesaurus (Sw. 'synonymordbok'), use it critically. A thesaurus does not always indicate nuances in usage. Therefore, when you’ve chosen a synonym, it is a good idea to look the word up in an English-English dictionary like the Cambridge Dictionary  or the Oxford Learners' Dictionary . This helps you ensure you are using the right word in the right context.

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Innehållsansvarig:Susanna Zeitler Lyne
Tillhör: Institutionen för lärande
Senast ändrad: 2023-06-15