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I’m writing a paper and I have these sentences that are a bit problematic. I feel they generalize a bit and could be rewritten in less words. I’m kindly seeking suggestions on how to improve the below sentences.

The biggest mistake that women can make in their lives is to have a baby with the wrong guy. That's why it's important to take your time in the selection process. Some guys take longer than others to get it, but once they have it, they will end up making more money than the rest of them.

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    I am not sure what you think is wrong with these sentences from a grammatical point of view. Could you elaborate what you mean with "remove generations" and why it's difficult for you to do? – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jan 11 '18 at 12:43
  • Thanks for your response. It’s because I think its one of the biggest issues women could face and not the biggest. This sentence feels a bit too direct. – John Jan 11 '18 at 12:49
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    So, you want us to tell you that you should change "The biggest mistake" to "One of the biggest mistakes" and "the rest of them" to "many of them"...? (By the way, this sounds really weird. What are they supposed to get? It seems like a general phrase, but this makes this sentence feel hollow, like useless generic advice without any kind of specific tips. And I am not sure if money should be the only deciding factor, but the content is of course your decision...) – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jan 11 '18 at 12:55
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    I don't understand your last sentence. In the first clause, it seems that you're using the phrase "get it" to mean "understand what's going on", with "it" just being a dummy pronoun. In the second clause, "have it" is most naturally interpreted as "possess whatever physical object the word 'it' refers to". And then you start talking about money. – David Richerby Jan 11 '18 at 17:48
  • These statements are generalizations. Trying to reword them is putting lipstick on a pig. If your conclusions are generalizations, you may as well state them as generalizations. What needs repair here is your thinking process, not your writing, but that's beyond the scope of this site. Sorry to be so blunt. – Wildcard Jan 12 '18 at 2:14
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What you are lacking seems to be a bit of empathy and different points of view in this scenario. You are assuming everyone shares the same opinion about this topic:

  • Women will have a baby at one point or another
  • Women will spend their time, and thereby life together, with a man
  • Women are actively selecting men like pieces of meat at the butcher
  • Women are only seeking a high income from men
  • Men who are not earning a lot will earn more than anybody else later in their life
  • Men are seeking to get something, like a philosophy, that will help them make more money than other men

You are making a lot of assumptions that are not necessarily true. Of course there are differences depending on the society you are living in and the social circles that you are living in. But those are the things that stick out to me (and @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere; some of the examples above were named first by that user).

Basically what you need is a different perspective. Ask people you know about their opinion. Do they think the same? What sticks out when they are reading these sentences? What comes to their mind when reading it out loud?

By identifying your assumptions that others may not share you can then proceed to either eliminate them or mitigate some of the things so that it won't alienate your audience as much as your original text. The main thing to look out for is absolutes:

  • "The biggest mistake" -> being with someone that doesn't make a lot of money may not be regarded as a mistake by others; to makes this less crass you could change this to "One of the biggest mistakes" so that it will still carry a lot of weight, but the exact placement on the personal list of things not to do is up to the reader
  • "have a baby with the wrong guy" -> not every woman wants to be with a guy (or have a baby, but your article seems to focus on the baby part so I will leave that one to you); "have a baby with the wrong person" makes this more abstract, so that more readers might feel related and at the same time you are not imposing your own worldview on the reader; generalizing it is not inherently a bad thing that should be eliminated
  • "in the selection process" -> men are not objects that can just be chosen, they have an opinion, too; "when getting to know someone" makes this an equal thing where both parties have something to say in the matter
  • "rest of them" -> this implies that the person will automatically be on the top once he got it (I don't know what you mean with getting it, but I assume that's part of that article, so I will leave that one out, too); "many of them" just pushes the person in the upper half or so and leaves the details to the reader

The problem with your original sentences is that they are imposing your own worldview as generalizations of how society has to work. These examples show you a different point of view that would probably help to mitigate some of it if you are aiming for a wider audience.

But: be careful about this. If your target audience is straight female, wanting a baby, looking for a guy to bring in the money then your text is perfectly fine. My examples would work if I, or people from the social circles that I am part of, were your target audience. Is this what you want?

Generalizations are not inherently bad, but you have to be careful with them and the general process of getting rid of generalizations that might alienate your audience is to give examples to someone who is part of or at least close to your target audience and letting them point out where they can identify an opinion they do not share. After that you can try to change certain parts of your text to make them less extreme or more extreme, depending on the feedback you got.

If you are looking for generalizations to get rid of them because you identified that you are prone to getting them not quite as you intended: have a look out for absolutes like "best", "worst" , "all", "none" or "everyone" as well as whole groups like "women", "men", "guys", "kids", "elderly" or "millenials". These are markers that show you where you might be generalizing in a way that your audience may not appreciate.

  • Thank you for your detailed response. I have adjusted the texts based on your suggestions as such such "One of the biggest mistakes women can make in her life is having a baby with the wrong person. This why it is essential to take your time when getting to know someone. Some people learn at a different pace than others, but once their education is complete, they will end up doing better in society than many of them." Please let me know! – John Jan 11 '18 at 18:18
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    @John For me that sounds better. I just want to remind you that you have to think about your target audience when editing your texts. Your audience may not like what I like. – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jan 11 '18 at 18:25
  • For sure, and I for sure can't please everyone, but just don't want to offend the people I am not tageting. – John Jan 11 '18 at 18:27
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    @John In that case I am glad I could help and wish you the best for your project. – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jan 11 '18 at 18:30
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    The purpose of the writing also matters. If it is intended to be a narrative, and the character whose perspective we're following actually believes all of those generalizations, it's a fine bit of prose for the purpose of showing off the character's beliefs regardless of the target audience. My immediate impression, on reading this passage, is that the narrator is a woman who did have a child with the wrong guy and strongly regrets doing so. – Kevin Jan 11 '18 at 23:12
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I'm seeing three big generalizations there :

  • Women want to have a baby
  • Women want to be with a guy
  • Money is important in relationships

Any one of those will alienate a significant part of an audience.

If you're looking for a variation on the old idiom "marry in haste, repent at leisure" (which avoids generalization of specific groups by being entirely general), a search on the phrase should give some nice alternative ways of expressing the same concept.

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I notice a little negative feedback for your "assumptions" about men and women in your excerpt. I think this is mainly due to common terror of violating the social and political correctness in society today.

Let me just say that I get what you are trying to say and I think that most everyone else does too. That doesn't mean that they agree or that you won't alienate certain readers as other comments mention. You most likely will.

But the question is... Do you care? Is your paper being written to please everyone or to give advice to a very specific group of people?

Instead of replacing the word "women" with "heterosexual women who want to have children" throughout your writing, you could simply specify in the opening of your paper exactly who your audience includes. Or you could do this with a descriptive title (something like "For the woman who wants the "white picket fence"). Once you have defined what kind of woman and/or man you are advising, I think you could safely continue with these opinions, especially if you include any support or evidence of these points from credible sources.

As regarding your original question of "worst" or "one of the worst", I think that is a matter of opinion. There is no definitive answer. If you are writing the paper from YOUR subjective point of view (which it seems like you are, based on your example provided), then "worst" is acceptable if that is what you think. If the paper is from a more objective scientific point of view based on research, you might want to go with "one of the worst".

BTW, I'm an unpublished newbie, so take my advice with a grain of salt. lol

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    "Instead of replacing the word 'women' with 'heterosexual women who want to have children' throughout your writing" Nobody is actually proposing that. – David Richerby Jan 11 '18 at 17:53
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If I'm writing too complicated I'm using my "schoolyard technique": How would teens talk about the subject in the schoolyard?

"Baby with the wrong guy, big mistake!"

"Take your time!"

"The slower guys make more money!"

You see, the information that women get babies is not so important ;-) I'm asking "Why".

Why is the baby with the wrong guy a mistake? Genes, bad father, poverty ...?

Why is a long decision process helpful? More Experience?

Why is a slower guy getting more money? Slow = Intelligence?

Your text leaves the same questions.

What I'm missing in your question is the setting. Are you writing an advisory book? Is a mother/father talking to a teenager? What is the conflict of the person you are addressing? Is she wanting a baby right now or does she want to establish a relationship with a one-night-stand?

Perhaps something like this:

The decision for a child should base on a good and stable relationship. (Not the wrong guy, or time.) Knowing each other for a longer time gives you the safety to establish a home and a financial base together to welcome the child. (Time, money, no mistake.)

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