Concise Writing

Concise language emphasizes meaning over habits or language preferences that increase the word count. You should strive for the fewest possible words without sacrificing meaning.

Say it simply.

We have to question every word that we write. Do we need it. Can I say the same thing with fewer words? Is there a more precise word?

throughout  through
in their lifetime  usually not necessary
often times  often
any given  a, an, or any
in this day in age  nowadays, today, currently, recently
learning about it  learning it
the deciding factor in whether you write… (7 words) the difference between writing… (4 words)
day to day daily
salesman’s pitch sales pitch
whether it be their own or someone else’s  whether their own…

Avoid “There is/are.”

In clear and concise writing, we avoid “there is/are.” We want to focus on active language that emphasizes actors and actions, while avoiding unnecessary words.

Wordy: There is a lot of “slang” that gets used when texting. (11 words)

We can change “there is/are” sentences by identifying an actor and an activity (we + use). “There is” also forces use to use the adjective “a lot” instead of the more concise “often.”

Concise:  We often use slang when texting. (6 words)

Use general forms instead of “all” or “every.”

Wordy: Every English major or The English major

Simply, refer to the general “English majors” to refer to everyone that majors in English.

Concise: English majors

Focus on essential verbs.

In our lesson on clarity, we discussed nominalizations, or adjectives or verbs in the noun form. Nominalizations can lead to wordiness, since we still need a verb in the sentence. The following example uses a generic verb to replace the nominalized verb.

Wordy: English majors experience writing essays. (5 words)

The action we should focus on is writing. “Experience” is redundant here, since writing is an experience.

Concise: English majors write essays. (4 words)

In the following example, verbs are used in their adjective form, forcing the writer to use the generic verb “make” to complete the sentence.

Wordy: A poorly designed website can make a reader confused and frustrated. (11 words)

A more concise sentence activates the adjectives “confused” and “frustrated” by converting them into verbs.

Concise: A poorly designed website can confuse and frustrate readers. (9 words)

We can eliminate the word “can” to make this sentence more assertive and confident sounding.

Concise and Confident: A poorly designed websites confuse and frustrate readers. (8 words)

Avoid redundancies.

Wordy: Lawyers use professional writing skills when documenting their cases that are being worked on. (14 words)

Redundancies occur when we feel the need to explain something that is already evident or assumed. In the above example, we assume that if a lawyer is documenting a case that it is part of “their” work and that it is in the process of “being worked on.”

Concise: Lawyers use professional writing skills when documenting cases. (8 words)

Wordy: in a various number of different outlets (7 words)
Concise:  in a variety of outlets (5 words)

Both phrases have the same meaning, but the more concise version is less confusing.

Wordy: Editors need a keen eye for detail.

Someone with a “keen eye” is attentive to detail.  Sometimes we write redundant sentences, when we really intend to be more specific.

Concise: Editors need a keen eye.
Concise and Precise: Editors need a keen eye for grammar errors.

Make sure every sentence is important.

Wordy/Non-essential information: Social media coordinator is a very modern job that hasn’t existed for very long. (14 words)

This sentence is redundant, since “modern” means “it is new,” i.e. “hasn’t existed for very long.” The sentence doesn’t say much that can’t be said in a word or two in another sentence that does more work.

Concise: Companies recently started hiring social media coordinators to move their advertising and branding messages online. (1 word + plus new sentence)

In this example, the word “recently” replaces the meaning of the previous sentence.