For many writers, eliminating wordiness isn’t easy. Perhaps they’ve learned to “pad” their writing to meet a word count for a college paper, they’re struggling to find the right words, or they think that adding words makes their writing sound more formal or that their readers expect it. However, wordiness in business, scientific, and technical writing can confuse your readers, bury your ideas, and take you off topic.
The cure is to make every word count.
Strategies for succinct writing
As you read the following list, think about which are typical in your writing:
Delete “dummy subjects.” Don’t start sentences with “there are” or “it is.” Instead, get to the real subject of the sentence. Compare:
- There are some people who think that house is nice.
- Some people think that house is nice.
Use active voice. By default, passive sentences require more words but result in less clarity.
- The ball was kicked by the boy (passive).
- The boy kicked the ball (active).
- Eliminate redundancy. Seek and destroy such constructions as “in order to,” “by means of,” and “due to the fact that.” Similarly, “helpers” like “very” and “extremely” add little value.
Replace prepositional phrases with one word modifiers. In these examples, moving the modifier so that it’s next to the word it describes simplifies the sentence.
- The president of the company approved the budget.
- The company president approved the budget.
Combine short sentences. When two short, related sentences occur together, delete part of one and combine them: doing so can better show readers how ideas are related.
- The flag has three colors. They are red, white, and blue.
- The flag has three colors: red, white, and blue.
One last key to improving your writing: Give yourself time to plan and write. Utilize the above strategies for eliminating wordiness and redundancy, combining short sentences, and executing conciseness in your writing. And, as you review your documents, search your document for words and phrases you can eliminate for tighter writing. Your readers will thank you for it.