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I use "think", "I think" and "I don't think" in my writing a lot. Can you suggest a few ways to reduce it and few alternative ways of saying the same thing?

Look at the below sentences I have written. These are just few examples, I use them a lot. Average two or three "think" in one page.

  1. Why do you think about that?
  2. I think you can do it.
  3. But I think you got to take some rest.
  4. Do you think you can break that?
  5. I don't think so.
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It simplifies matters if you just regard “I don't think X ”, where X is some assertion, as equivalent to “I don't think”. Saves a few words, too! –  jwpat7 May 28 '13 at 20:20

4 Answers 4

In many cases, "I think"/"you think" can be removed. In some cases, such can be replaced with "believe", "know", "am convinced", or the like when seeking to communicate personal sentiment, involvement, or expertise (i.e., when "I think" would be meaningful but not quite fitting).

If there is a desire to communicate uncertainty, one can use "seems", "appears", or similar words. Likewise, "indicates" or "hints" can be used along with specific evidence to communicate a reasoned but not absolutely proven opinion.

In other cases, more extensive rephrasing can be used.

The following examples may help (X is a placeholder for evidence, [] contain an alternative word or phrase):

  1. Why do you think about that?
    • Why are you [obsessed with][fond of] concerned about that?
    • Are you an enthusiast about that? (an indirect approach which may provide an answer with the desired information)
    • Does that have some special meaning to you?
    • That must be important to you. (such a statement of observation can encourage the other to reveal personal matters to a person who cares enough to pay attention and affirms the validity of feelings)
    • That is not important to me. (sometimes statements of contradiction spur others to explain their beliefs or behavior)
    • What is so [interesting] important about that?
    • Why does that get your attention?
  2. I think you can do it.
    • You can do it.
    • I [know] believe you can do it.
    • X indicates you can do it.
    • X, so you should be able to do it.
    • X; you can do it.
  3. But I think you got to take some rest.
    • But you need to take a break.
    • But I suggest you get some rest.
    • But X and you need to get some rest. (e.g., X could be "you've been at this seven straight hours" or "the exam is tomorrow")
    • But you look like you need some rest.
    • But X says you need to get some rest. (e.g., X could be "that yawn" or "that basket of wadded up paper")
  4. Do you think you can break that?
    • Can you break that?
    • Isn't that too tough for you to break?
    • That seems too tough for you to break.
    • Does that seem too tough for someone to break? (an indirect approach which, because people tend to relate to their own abilities and experiences, is likely to elicit the desired information)
  5. I don't think so.
    • That's impossible.
    • That seems unlikely.
    • No, X proves that cannot be the case.
    • X seems to contradict that.
    • X contradicts that.
    • Are you sure?
    • How is that possible?
    • I believe [that is not the case] you are mistaken.
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Lucile Vaughan Payne's classic guide to the essay, The Lively Art of Writing, calls out "I think" specifically as weak writing. Now, it's been nearly 30 years years since I read this estimable guide, but to the best of my recollection, she says that writing "I think" is akin to saying timidly, "What I think isn't very important, but anyway what I think is..."

State your opinions forthrightly, without "weasel words." This has three benefits:

  1. It demonstrates respect for the reader. The reader can be relied upon to recognize an opinion and to know that it is the author's without being reminded constantly, making it a waste of everyone's time to state this explicitly.
  2. It doesn't continually remind the author that he or she is reading, drawing them out of the piece and giving them the opportunity to turn their valuable attention elsewhere.
  3. It provides your opinions with more rhetorical force, implying that, even though they are obviously opinions, you have thought them through sufficiently that they may as well be facts. Of course, for this to hold up in the reader's mind, this implication should be true!
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Second that. Everything you write is what you think, else you wouldn't be writing it! Readers can make up their minds about whether they agree. If there's a particular reason you need readers to know that this your opinion (e.g. if you're taking a somewhat controversial position) then you need to state that clearly and explain your reasons - not just 'I think'. –  micapam May 28 '13 at 23:16
    
Not always. In some cases it can come off as extremely rude. If you're critiquing someone's writing, for example (and anyone that's done any critiquing knows how easy it is to offend a writer, even if you mean well), telling him "You should change that" is condescending. If it's a spelling error, a fact, then it's ok, but if it's a question of style, like using this word or that, short or long sentence, something subjective, an opinion, then "I think you should change that" or "You might consider changing that," will get you much further than ordering a writer what to do with his own writing. –  Tannalein Jun 24 '13 at 12:49
    
If a writer can't take robust criticism, they are in the wrong line of work, because once they start interacting with agents, publishers, and clients, they will get almost nothing but. Whoops, I meant, "In my opinion, they might consider a different career..." –  kindall Jun 24 '13 at 15:23
    
And if you ask ten different writers for a critique, you'll get ten different advices. The fact that you present your opinions as fact does not make your opinion any truer than the opinions of the other nine writers. Now, if you're a publisher and say "You must change this if you want me to publish you" that's a fact. But if you say "You must add more description" someone else will say "You must use less description" - neither of those are facts, those are nothing but personal preferences. Which you are presenting as facts. –  Tannalein Jun 24 '13 at 20:59
    
One would think that the recipient of such contradictory advice, being a writer himself or herself, would understand that these are indeed personal preferences, and value conciseness over verbosity. I will admit, however, that this approach is nearly mandatory when communicating with one's superiors in a corporate setting... :-) –  kindall Jun 24 '13 at 21:08

In some of them you can just drop the "I think." You can also use dialect, slang, or regionalisms.

You can do it.

In my opinion, you can do it.

You really should take a break.

You really should get some rest.

Can you break that?

Betcha can't break that.

Not in my book.

Not on my block!

Can't see it from my house!

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This is where a thesaurus comes in handy. Here's an online one: http://thesaurus.com/browse/think?s=t

The words they list as synonyms for "think" are: believe; anticipate, assume, be convinced, comprehend, conceive, conclude, consider, credit, deem, determine, envisage, envision, esteem, estimate, expect, fancy, feature, feel, foresee, gather, guess, hold, image, imagine, judge, plan for, presume, project, realize, reckon, regard, see, sense, suppose, surmise, suspect, take, understand, vision, visualize

Of course you should not just blindly substitute synonyms. They don't have exactly the same meaning. But it's a good list to consider. There are also longer phrases that can substitute for "think".

Note that a big difference between many of these words is just the level of certainty that they imply. "I think that you can do it" implies something more than 50/50 but far from certainty. "I hope you can do it" would usually be taken to mean less than 50/50. "I know you can do it" or "I believe you can do it" indicate a high certainty. Etc.

As others note, you can often simply drop the "I think" and state something baldly. Rather than saying, for example, "I think people today are too lazy", you could just state it as a fact: "People today are too lazy." This makes your writing more forceful. In some cases that may be inappropriate, especially if you have doubts yourself. Like, "I think there may be life on other planets" is a reasonable statement. "There is life on other planets" is probably more than you really know. But again, there are many alternatives to "I think". Depending on the context, you could say, "suspect", "theorize", "believe", "presume", "suppose", "hope", etc.

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