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My favourite editing quick-fixes

Posted in: Copyediting, Grammar by Sally Evans-Darby on 7 October 2015

Editing quick-fixes

Every piece of text I edit is different, whether a textbook on corpus linguistics, web copy translated from Finnish into English, or a journal article on spondylolysis. Yet there are some clunky turns of phrase that crop up again and again, and they’re among the first things I iron out on my first read through. I’ve compiled a short list of these, so in the hope they might come in useful for fellow editors and writers, here they are in all their glory:

in order to –> to

In almost every case where ‘in order to’ appears, it can be replaced simply with ‘to’ and retain exactly the same meaning. Every now and then I stet ‘in order to’ if removing it changes some necessary rhythm of the sentence, but that’s once in a blue moon.

due to the fact that  –> because

Again, this is one where using the word ‘because’ changes nothing in the meaning – and has the added bonus of cleanly swapping five words for one. I see this very often at the start of a sentence, e.g. ‘Due to the fact that I was trying on a new dress, I was happy’, which I would (with great glee) change to: ‘Because I was trying on a new dress, I was happy’.

utilize –> use

Occasionally ‘utilize’ can impart a more specific meaning than ‘use’ and should be left as is. However, in the majority of cases it’s used unnecessarily, as in the sentence ‘I utilize public transport to get to work’. ‘Use’ does the job just as well and cuts three syllables down to one.

firstly … fifthly etc –> first … fifth

‘Firstly’ is an old favourite in scientific writing to introduce lists, but the suffix ‘ly’ really adds nothing of value and always appears to me a little fussy. I will generally change ‘firstly’ to ‘first’, ‘secondly’ to ‘second’, etc.

Of course, as with all aspects of editing, it goes without saying that these quick-fixes should all be used with judgement, and never applied thoughtlessly without reading the text carefully and being sensitive to the author/publisher’s requirements. If an author much preferred ‘due to the fact that’ to ‘because’, it would have to remain… as much as that would pain me!

I know there are dozens of other quick-fixes out there – care to add your own?


  1. Hi Sally,
    Great blog piece, I agree with all of these.
    A few more for you:
    ‘in addition to’ -> ‘and’
    ‘for the purpose of – > ‘for’
    ‘prior to’ -> ‘before’.
    Every little helps to get the word count down and the ease of reading up!

    Comment by Sophie Bristow on 9 November 2015 at 11:13 am

  2. Sally Evans-Darby

    Hi Sophie, thanks – all great ones there! I do see ‘prior to’ so much when ‘before’ will do.

    Comment by Sally Evans-Darby on 10 November 2015 at 8:24 am

  3. Hi there Sally,

    Good points, and I agree.

    Glad the freelancing is going well. I’m in the same boat now.

    Best wishes,


    Comment by Rachel A H Beckett on 7 October 2016 at 12:30 pm