300 Days of Better Writing

June 7, 2010

Avoid Overgeneralizing


One of my favorite expressions as a kid was, “Oh, yeah? Prove it.” (I was a precocious child.) Over-generalizing means making a general statement or reaching a conclusion from a very limited number of examples. When you over-generalize, you invite your reader to ask, “Oh, yeah? Prove it.”

If you base an argument, concept, fact, idea, etc. on your over-generalized statement, the reader can discredit everything you have written. The reader only needs one example to prove you wrong.

Here’s the tip that accompanies “avoid over-generalization”: When you make a general statement, make sure it’s true in EVERY case.

Some examples of over-generalizing are as follows.

“As everyone knows . . .”

“She was always smiling.”

“People loved her cooking.”

“This is the most exciting movie.”

“The stores in this town are no good.”

“Text books are boring.”

“People do this when they’re tired.”

“Men are pigs, but women are angels.”

“It figures.”

(This is the tip for day 4 in 300 Days of Better Writing, also available at Hostile Editing in PDF and Kindle formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.)

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