Designing: On Better Writing (Eliminating The Fact And The I Think)

There’s an adage that in writing you shouldn’t tell but show.  A useful variation is in eliminating the phrase “the fact” or the “the fact is” from sentences.

E.G.

Has anyone noticed the fact that excess fertilizer applied to a field washes out of the soil into streams where it causes algae blooms which deny oxygen to fish. 

Has anyone noticed how excess fertilizer applied to a field washes out of the soil into streams where it produces algae blooms which deny oxygen to fish. 

Of these two the latter is more powerful and reads better.  It is also shorter, of course you could work on both and shorten further but I believe the example makes the point.  The second point I make is that the phrase “I think” is pointless both in speech and writing.  Because when you say “I think” you’re stating the obvious because you are saying it.  Not only that but to some considerable degree you’re shifting the listener or reader’s attention from the subject of your sentence to your thinking, which the reader or listener may suspect, the jury is out on.  Which of the two sentences is more powerful.

I think Ethel is mistaken.

Ethel is mistaken.

See?  So don’t make the mistake of writing or saying “I think.”