Gerund Addiction and Word Repetition–Two More Scourges

Faithful readers know that I have several posts on different kinds of writing tics that plague many academic writers.  These include list addiction, dyad addiction, and cheap adjectives.

There are two more writing tics that I’ve come to identify: gerund addiction, and word repetition.  Oddly enough, these often occur together in a single document.  I don’t know why.  But here today, I show you examples of these scourges. I hate them.  Both singly and together they suck the energy and dynamism from your writing.  Banish them.

In the examples, gerunds are in bold, and repeated words are in color.


My overarching goal is for students to understand the interconnectedness and application of theories of learning and development. For this reason, my approach to undergraduate education is conceptually focused with an emphasis on comparing overarching themes across learning theories and assessment techniques while also providing students the tools to improve their retention. After operationalizing key tenets of development, my students explore the interrelatedness of presented theories. For example, in my undergraduate xxx courses students are asked to identify theories they find least similar, such as xxx’s theories of xx and yyy’s theories of yyy. Students are then tasked with creating visual organizers, such as Venn diagrams, of the selected theories and then give presentations on the similarities and distinctions of the selected theories. By investigating the historical context of each discovery as well as the personal narrative of the researchers themselves, students come to learn that theories of learning and development are not compromised of discrete facts but are an interconnected and growing body of knowledge.


Teaching for me is the fostering of an innate sense of curiosity and desire to learn. In today’s college education, the teacher is concentrating on delivering the instruction while the majority of the students are not actively engaged in the course material and are searching for ways to succeed in a course through anonymity and rote memorization. My goal is to provide the classroom environment for fearless and active participation leading to critical thinking and confident application of the learned knowledge.

The growing class sizes in university classrooms adds much more challenge for teachers than the ever expanding dynamism of scientific knowledge. In tier 1 institutes, the research faculty teaching these large classrooms often approaches the task with high anxiety anticipating impediments to their research progress mostly because they have never been trained to teach as they are trained for research. The post-doc pedagogy discussion series and the teaching, learning & technology center at UX provided an opportunity for me to understand the different teaching and learning styles and how to tackle the current university teaching challenges. This further took me through the principles of designing curriculum, active engagement of students in classroom, and assessing student achievements with hands on large classroom teaching experiences.

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Gerund Addiction and Word Repetition–Two More Scourges — 10 Comments

        • A research statement is strictly about your past, present, and future research. A personal statement (much more rarely requested) asks that you tie together your personal background or influences into a discussion of your research and teaching, and overall career plan. As a general rule, however, don’t go overboard with a sappy childhood-focused autobiography (“when I was a child in India, I always loved…”); be very brisk in sketching life influences or experiences, and focus primarily on the professional work (research and teaching) that arises from those.

  1. Thanks to your blog I learned the importance of stepping back from a piece of text. In my own case, I realised that I’d spent so long focussing on my Statement of Purpose on a word-by-word basis that I’d paid no attention to how the document read as a whole. I’d tried to cram as much information in to each sentence as possible, editing on a word-by-word basis over the course of several months. The penultimate draft was a lot of convoluted sentences with excessive list-dependence. I trimmed all the waffley edges off my Statement – cursing myself but remaining thankful that I’d noticed.

    Keep up the necessary work!

  2. Here is how I would re-write it:
    My overarching goal is for students connect and apply theories of learning and development. For this reason, my approach to undergraduate education focuses on comparing …..

    • Yeah, “to” is an outdated word. Banish it!

      On a more serious note, gerunds aren’t bad in themselves, and word repetition is sometimes necessary (which Karen implicitly admits by ignoring that “learning,” “teaching,” and “students” is repeated). What is bad is overuse of any pattern to the point where the text becomes predictable and boring.

  3. I have found this website to be helpful in both basic and complex ways. However, some of those bolded words aren’t gerunds. Often they’re adverbs, adjectives, or just tenses of verbs that include -ing endings. But thanks for all of these tips!

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