The Grammar GuideNounsDo we need "type of", "sort of", or "kind of" in a sentence?

Do we need "type of", "sort of", or "kind of" in a sentence?

Do we need "type of", "sort of", or "kind of" in a sentence?

Phrases like kind of, sort of, and type of are often unnecessary in writing. They are often used colloquially, which should be avoided in formal writing, and can also bog down your writing in extra words, which makes the meaning of your sentence less clear.

Let's take a look at an example:

  • Pitbulls and bulldogs are loyal to their owners. But these types of dogs are often misrepresented as vicious attack animals.
  • Pitbulls and bulldogs are loyal to their owners. But these dogs are often misrepresented as vicious attack animals.

Because the first sentence tells us which dogs we are talking about, we don't need to specify types of. The second sentence is clearer and easier to read.

When writing, it's important to be succinct. Verbose writing is not only difficult to read, it also eliminates clarity. Most of the time, you can cut these as unnecessary words:

  • He is a dendrologist. This is a type of scientist who studies trees.
  • He is a dendrologist. This is a scientist who studies trees.

However, sometimes these words do make things clearer. If there are no preceding sentences, or there are numerous types of the noun, saying type of or kind of may offer more specificity:

  • The silkworm is a kind of moth, not a worm.

There are over 160,000 species of moths, so it makes sense to use the phrase kind of. That said, you can often use a more specific phrase instead:

  • The silkworm is not a worm, but a species of moth.

You also need to consider whether using colloquial language is the right approach for your piece of writing. Saying things like "I'm kind of hungry" is more of a colloquialism than proper English. When you're using formal writing, avoid these uses completely.

No matter what the style of writing, be aware that phrases like sort of can actually weaken your point. For example, he is sort of smart is weak and doesn't illustrate the point well. Instead, provide a comparison for his intelligence (e.g. he's smart, but not as smart as Barbara) or state the fact decisively: he is smart. The only exception is if you are writing fiction and want to show that the character is hesitant, shy, or indecisive.

When deciding whether to eliminate extra words, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this being used colloquially?
  • Could I rephrase my sentence to be clearer without it?
  • Does the sentence make sense without these words?
  • Do my preceding sentences offer clarity?

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