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10+ ways to reduce wordiness in your writing

When you streamline your wording, your message becomes more powerful and clear. Calvin Sun looks at how eliminating just a few superfluous phrases can tighten up your writing and give it more punch.

When you streamline your wording, your message becomes more powerful and clear. Calvin Sun looks at how eliminating just a few superfluous phrases can tighten up your writing and give it more punch.


Do you use too many words when you write? If so, you waste your time and your readers' time. You also make your writing less effective and impressive. Below are 10 examples of wordiness, with recommendations on reducing it.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: "There are/is [noun] [relative pronoun] [verb]..."

Remove "There are/is" and the relative pronoun. The sentence now becomes [noun] [verb].

Example: "There are some people who believe the movie is great." Improved example: "Some people believe the movie is great."

2: "It is [adjective] [that]..."

Remove "It is" and turn the adjective into an adverb.

Examples: "It is clear that the system has a problem." "It is obvious that the manager should resign." Improved examples: "Clearly, the system has a problem." "Obviously, the manager should resign."

3: "Very" / "extremely"

Remove these words. Keeping them weakens the impact of your writing.

Examples: "Proper planning is very vital to project success." "Lack of preparation was a very critical factor in his poor performance." Improved examples: "Proper planning is vital to project success." "Lack of preparation was a critical factor in his poor performance."

4: "Given the fact that..." / "In light of the fact that..."

Replace both phrases with "Because."

Example: "In light of the fact that that the project was cancelled, we're considering staff reductions." Improved example: "Because the project was cancelled, we're considering staff reductions."

Note: Be careful of using "since" as a synonym for "because," as the former deals with time and not cause-and-effect. Therefore, the sentence "Since you arrived, I have gotten better," means that my recovery came after your arrival. However, it doesn't mean that my recovery occurred as a consequence of your arrival.

5: "in the month of [month]..."

Simply remove "in the month of" and your meaning stays the same, with four fewer words.

Example: "Testing will begin in the month of May." Improved example: "Testing will begin in May."

However, phrases such as "city of New York" or "city of Los Angeles" may still be necessary to distinguish them from a similarly named state or county.

6: "color [in color]"

As in the previous example, simply remove "in color" from the sentence.

Example: "The car was red in color." Improved example: "The car was red."

7: "...timeframe"

Remove this word and shred it.

Example: "Testing will begin in the May timeframe." Improved example: "Testing will begin in May."

8: "...environment"

Remove this word and shred it, too.

Example: "The system will be installed in the building 26 environment." Improved example: "The system will be installed in building 26."

9: "have a/n [noun] on"

Remove "have a/n" and "on" and turn the noun into a verb.

Example: "He had an influence on my development." Improved example: "He influenced my development."

10: "on how to [verb]"

Remove "on how to" and turn the verb into its "-ing" form.

Example: "I read a book on how to drive." Improved example: "I read a book on driving."

11: "[noun 1] of the [noun 2]"

Remove "of the" (i.e., get rid of the prepositional phrase) and turn noun 2 into a possessive of noun 1.

Example: "You waste the time of your readers." Improved example: "You waste your readers' time."

About

Calvin Sun is an attorney who writes about technology and legal issues for TechRepublic.

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