Writing concisely is a great skill and it makes your paper (regardless of the subject) readable and precise.
Let’s face it; nobody likes to read a mile-long sentence or a paragraph that doesn’t specify anything. In fact, fluff should never be a part of professional, concise writing whose primary aim is to inform readers about certain topic. Does this mean you have to interrupt your work flow only to check whether writing is concise? No, not really. Editing is an excellent opportunity for you to make your work more concise. I know how challenging this process can be which is why this article will provide useful tips you should implement to write better and concisely.
Replace vague words with specific words
Writers use small and ambiguous words to express a certain point. Oftentimes, including too many small words can make your work seem confusing. Generally, more specific words lead to more concise writing. To use specific words instead of small and ambiguous ones, you have to brainstorm or use a thesaurus. Plus, this practice will extend your vocabulary.
Example: The politician talked about several problems that are related to economic crisis in the country on national TV.
Revise: The politician addressed economic crisis on national TV.
Question every word in a sentence
When you’re proofreading your work check every word to make sure it contributes something important to the sentence. If some words are dead weight you can delete or replace them.
Example: The teacher showed me different techniques of cutting unnecessary words from my essay that I had written for English literature class today.
Revise: The teacher showed me different techniques of cutting unnecessary words from my essay.
Incorporate and combine sentences
Sometimes, information doesn’t require full sentence and you can easily combine it with another sentence without decreasing its value. In these cases, combined sentences form informative and concise info.
Example: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies demonstrate the importance of true friendship and moral values to accomplish great things. He made three movies.
Revise: Peter Jackson’s three Lord of the Rings movies demonstrate the importance of true friendship and moral values to accomplish great things.
Eliminate words that point out the obvious
When making your paper more concise, always consider readers. If some sentences or phrases describe or explain things that are obvious to everyone you can fix that problem by rewording or deleting them. Keeping non-essential details in text or pointing out the obvious makes readers lose their interest in your work.
Example: I received your inquiry about Apple laptops yesterday, and read it carefully. Yes, we do have…
Revise: I received your inquiry about Apple laptops yesterday. Yes, we do have…
Eliminate unnecessary modifiers and determiners
Let’s face it; sometimes we add a word or phrase that seems to narrowly determine or modify the noun but it doesn’t contribute to the entire sentence. In appropriate context, these words or phrases can be meaningful, but in most cases they are used as “fillers” and eliminating them doesn’t ruin the meaning of your sentence. To determine whether some word or phrase is unnecessary, write down your sentence without it. If that sentence makes sense, then phrase should be eliminated. If meaning of the sentence is affected, then you can leave it.
Example: I don’t really like any particular type of dessert on this menu.
Revise: I don’t like any dessert on this menu.
Stay away from repetitive wording
Pay attention to words or phrases that you keep mentioning frequently in your text, particularly in a same paragraph. To make your paper concise, bear in mind that words and sentences which don’t contribute to the content of the text are rarely necessary.
Example: Our customer service department employed five new interns. These interns do an excellent job during weekdays, but they can’t keep up with high demand on weekends.
Revise: Our customer service department employed five new interns who do an excellent job during weekdays, but cannot keep up with high demand on weekends.
Eliminate redundant pairs
Sometimes without even realizing it, we use pair of words that imply each other. When making your paper more concise, pay attention to redundant pairs to omit them. For example, word finish refers to something that is complete which is why completely finish is a redundant pair. Examples of some redundant pairs are listed below:
- Free gift
- Past memory
- Unexpected surprise
- Sudden crisis
- Sad tragedy
- Important essential
- Various differences
- Each individual
- True facts
- Basic fundamentals
- Final outcome
- End result.
Example: Team of researchers conducted a study whose final outcome showed that Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy.
Revise: Team of researchers conducted a study whose outcome showed the Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy.
Eliminate redundant categories
Some words in English automatically imply their categories which is why we don’t have to state both. For example, we know that pink is color and term pink color is a redundant category. Important characteristic of concise paper is omission of redundant categories i.e. in phrases like pink color the general category can be left out. Here are some examples of redundant categories:
- Unusual in nature
- Large in size
- Heavy in weight
- Period in time
- Round in shape
- Of cheap quality
- Expensive/affordable price
- Honest in character
- Blonde hair.
Example: During that period of time, most female buyers preferred cars that were pink in color, affordable in price, and shiny in appearance.
Revise: During that time, most female buyers preferred pink, affordable, and shiny cars.
Transform phrases into adjectives and single words
Tendency to use phrases to describe something or convey in a meaning that can be presented with a single word leads to wordiness and fluff. Try to transform these phrases into adjectives or single words when possible.
Example: The student with ambition will always find a way to stay focused on important goals.
Revise: The ambitious student will always find a way to stay focused on important goals.
Convert who, which, that clauses to phrases
Sometimes, clauses contribute to wordiness and you should convert them to phrases or single words whenever possible.
Example: All applicants who are interested in this job have to propose ideal marketing strategy.
Revise: All job applicants have to propose ideal marketing strategy.
Convert passive into active voice
Active-voice sentences are clear, precise, and concise. A passive voice implies that subject receives the action, which takes away concise attitude of the sentence.
Example: The bank account was opened by her husband.
Revise: Her husband opened the bank account.
Don’t overuse expletives at the beginning of sentences
Expletives like it + be-verb and there + be-verb are effective for emphasis in some situations. However, overusing such phrases can make your text look choppy and too wordy while impairing conciseness.
Example: It is the manager who’s supposed to motivate and lead the team to increase productivity.
Revise: Manager is supposed to motivate and lead the team to increase productivity.
Don’t overuse noun forms of some verbs
You should use verbs when possible, instead of noun forms. Overuse of nominalizations creates dull prose. On the other hand, verbs create engaging attitude and keeps readers interested.
Example: My job is collection of evidence at crime scenes.
Revise: I collect evidence at crime scenes.
Other things you should bear in mind
- Avoid overusing there is/there are
- Don’t overuse words like really, basically, actually, more, very
- Avoid clichés.
Concise writing makes your paper more professional, engaging, and less repetitive. Mastering this skill helps you avoid fluff or dull prose or pointing out the obvious. Tips from this article will help you make the editing and essay writing process more effective.