Conciseness

-Eleanora Vosburg-

This is a fundamental, and often overlooked, aspect of writing that can make the difference between a great piece of literature, and a snooze-fest of lengthy sentences and unnecessary words. There are simple steps all writers can take to avoid this common mistake, therefore creating strong pieces of writing that can grasp hold of the reader’s attention. Follow the simple concepts of elimination, replacing, and simplifying in order to understand the purpose of conciseness in writing.

Elimination

Don’t be afraid to get rid of words! Getting rid of words can be just as powerful as adding them in. Take out the words or phrases that do not add any significance or meaning to the passage, also known as redundant words Here are examples of how elimination can strengthen your writing:

  • Before Editing: I do declare that your attendance to this meeting proves, with the utmost highest compliment intended, that you are most willing to sacrifice time out of your busy, hectic day to discuss these important, crucial matters at hand.
  •  During Editing: I do declare that your attendance at this meeting proves, with the  utmost highest compliment intended, that you are most willing to sacrifice time out of your busy, hectic day to discuss these important, crucial matters at hand
  • After Editing: Your attendance at this meeting proves that you are willing to sacrifice time out of your day to discuss these important matters.

Often it comes down to eliminating just one word:

  • Before Editing: I am very good at eating ice cream and eating Oreos.
  • During Editing: I am very good at eating ice cream and eating Oreos.
  • After Editing: I am very good at eating ice cream and Oreos.

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Replacing

There are many phrases that can be summed up in one word without losing any meaning. For example:

Due to the fact that ———————always

In order to——————————-too

In the event that—————————if

At that point in time———————then

In spite of the fact that—————-although

In regards to—————————about

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Simplifying

As you edit your work, always look for ways to simplify what you are saying. Having a simpler way of writing can grasp the attention of the audience and make your central theme/argument/purpose more accessible.

There are three main aspects to simplifying that you should know.

  • Strong Verbs
  • Expletives
  • Active Voice

Strong Verbs are words such as: is, was, are, been, were. These verbs can cause unnecessary wordiness in your writing. Try to avoid using these whenever possible.For example:

  • Before Editing: Reading the newspaper is a great way to improve your vocabulary.
  • During Editing: Reading the newspaper is a great way to improve your vocabulary.
  • After Editing: Reading the newspaper improves your vocabulary.

Expletives attempt to introduce new topics in your writing such as: there are, it is, and there is. However, these also add unnecessary words to a piece of writing. For example:

  • Before Editing: There are so many people that assume we are alone in the universe.
  • During Editing: There are so many people that assume [that] we are alone in the universe.
  • After Editing: Many people assume that we are alone in the universe.

Active Voice should be used more than passive voice, since the latter often comes off as too wordy.

  • Before Editing: In research done by Thomas Edison, it was discovered that getting shocked by an electric socket really hurts.
  • During Editing: In research done by Thomas Edison, it was discovered that [discovered that] getting shocked by an electric socket really hurts.
  • After Editing: Thomas Edison discovered that getting shocked by an electric socket really hurts.

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Overall, the key to great writing is the ability to take out words as well as put them in. Learning how to recognize concise writing will benefit your own development as a writer. The goal of conciseness is to maintain the reader’s attention, and a wordy piece of writing will not achieve this. Having clear statements with no “fluff” will allow the reader to zero-in on the purpose of the piece as well as any other meanings and messages you intended to express.

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