Conciseness

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The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words. A common problem in writing is when people drag on their story. Everyone’s experienced a time when someone won’t stop talking about a something, and it goes on and on, and on and on, and you don’t know why they keep including certain details because it’s really just confusing you instead of helping you understand whatever they’re talking about. Well, you can think of each sentence as a story, and with each one you want to deliver it as efficiently as possible because you don’t want to be that annoying person. This can be accomplished by using the strongest words to delete and replace weaker words. Every word has a purpose and should be deliberately chosen by the writer.

One method for making sentences more concise is to eliminate words that explain the obvious or provide excessive detail.

Wordy:

I was working earlier with my co worker whose name is Joe.

Concise:

I worked earlier with Joe.

Wordy:

Tim was not really sure if he actually wanted to go to the basketball game that was in the evening.

Concise:

Tim was unsure if he wanted to go to the basketball game tonight.

Wordy:

Imagine in your mind people playing a game of soccer on a field where soccer is usually played normally.

Concise:

Imagine people playing a soccer game on a soccer field.

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After reading those examples you may be thinking that you already know this stuff. Well, some elements of concise writing aren’t as obvious. Changing passive verbs into active verbs is one method that can easily be overlooked.

Wordy:

A letter was sent by Jacob.

Concise:

Jacob sent a letter.

Wordy:

My work was proofread by a friend.

Concise:

A friend proofread my paper.

Another tactic is to change phrases into single words or adjectives.

Wordy:

The worker with motivation

Concise:

The motivated worker

Wordy:

The player with the best performance

Concise:

The best performing player

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Changing that, who, and which clauses into phrases or a word can also reduce wordiness.

Wordy:

The paper, which I submitted recently

Concise:

The recently submitted paper

Wordy:

All athletes who are interested in making the team must

Concise:

All athletes must

Some words are commonly used to replace phrases:

Because can replace:

  • the reason for
  • considering the fact that
  • this is why

When can replace:

  • on the occasion of
  • in a situation in which
  • under circumstances in which

Can can replace:

  • is able to
  • has the opportunity to
  • has the capacity for

May, might, and could can replace:

  • it is possible that
  • there is a chance that
  • it could happen that

Overall, being concise isn’t too complicated. If you find yourself getting confused when reading your writing then there’s a good chance you’re not being concise.

Here are the keys to success in conciseness:

  • Eliminate unnecessary words
  • Change passive verbs into active verbs
  • Change phrases into single words or adjectives
  • Changing that, who, and which clauses into a word or phrase

Sources

Weber, Ryan, and Nick Hurm. “Conciseness.” Purdue OWL: Conciseness, 27 Feb. 2013,

owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/572/01/.

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