An Unnecessary Modifier

Two, actually.

I refer to the modifier “sort of.” Here’s an example from a science type who wants to be chatty and informal:

Muons are sort of like extra-heavy electrons.

I clearly remember Mrs. Clemens telling us in sixth grade that “sort of” was poor English—we should use “rather,” which would change that sentence to

Muons are rather like extra-heavy electrons.

Sounds a little bit stiff and formal. But even that “rather” is unnecessary! Try this on for size:

Muons are like extra-heavy electrons.

Says the same thing as the other sentences, doesn’t it? And it’s simpler, more direct, and has more punch.

Remember the rule about conciseness:

If you can leave out a word without changing the meaning, leave it out.