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Writing Concisely: Methods for Eliminating Wordiness. Danika Rockett WRIT 300 Summer 09. Some Points to Consider. Cutting or shortening unnecessary words and phrases Avoid nominalizations (nouns made from verbs) Change that , who , and which clauses into phrases

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Writing concisely methods for eliminating wordiness

Writing Concisely:Methods for Eliminating Wordiness

Danika Rockett

WRIT 300

Summer 09


Some points to consider
Some Points to Consider

  • Cutting or shortening unnecessary words and phrases

  • Avoid nominalizations (nouns made from verbs)

  • Change that, who, and which clauses into phrases

  • Avoid expletives at the beginning of sentences

  • Use active voice

  • Omit obvious words

  • Omit repetitive wording


1 cutting or shortening empty words and phrases
1. Cutting or shortening empty words and phrases

  • Writers sometimes clog up their prose with one or more extra words or phrases that seem to determine narrowly or to modify the meaning of a noun but don't actually add to the meaning of the sentence. Although such words and phrases can be meaningful in the appropriate context, they are often used as "filler" and can easily be eliminated.

    Wordy

  • Any particular type of dessert is fine with me.

  • Balancing the budget by Friday is an impossibility without some kind of extra help.

    More Concise

  • Any dessert is fine with me.

  • Balancing the budget by Friday is impossible without extra help.

    (LBH p. 531)


1 cutting or shortening empty words and phrases1
1. Cutting or shortening empty words and phrases

Here's a list of some words and phrases that can often be pruned away to make sentences clearer:

kind of sort of generally nature of

type of really particular thing

basically very specific due to the fact that

definitely actually for all intents and purposes

Wordy

  • For all intents and purposes, American industrial productivity generally depends on certain factors that are really more psychological in kind than of any given technological aspect.

    More Concise

  • American industrial productivity depends more on psychological than on technological factors.

    (LBH p. 531-532)


More examples
More examples

Wordy

  • At this point in time, I am basically failing the class due to the fact that I have too many tardies and absences.

  • For the most part, I kind of enjoy watching soccer.

  • Despite the fact that I studied for the exam, I basically failed.

    More Concise

  • I am currently failing the class because I have too many tardies and absences.

  • I mostly enjoy watching soccer.

  • Although I studied for the exam, I failed.


2 nominalizations
2. Nominalizations

A nominalization occurs when we take a verb (for example, “install”) and turn it into a noun form (“installation”). The –tion suffix is a clue.

  • Bad Nominalization: We conducted an investigation of the funding.

  • Good Sentence: We investigated the funding.

  • Bad Nominalization: Our intention is to perform an audit of the records of the program.

  • Good Sentence: We intend to audit the records of the program. (even better: We will audit the program's records.)

  • Bad Nominalization: We had a discussion concerning a tax cut.

  • Good Sentence: We discussed a tax cut.

    (LBH pp. 385; 530)


3 change unnecessary that who and which clauses into phrases
3. Change unnecessary that, who, and which clauses into phrases

Using a clause to convey meaning that could be presented in a phrase or even a word contributes to wordiness. Convert modifying clauses into phrases or single words when possible.

Wordy

  • The report, which was released recently...

  • All applicants who are interested in the job must...

  • The system that is most efficient and accurate...

    More Concise

  • The recently released report...

  • All job applicants must...

  • The most efficient and accurate system...

    (LBH p. 534, 39d)


4 avoid overusing expletives at the beginning of sentences
4. Avoid overusing expletives at the beginning of sentences

Expletives are phrases with the following structures:

There is/was, There are/were, It is/was

Wordy

  • It is the governor who signs or vetoes bills.

  • There are four rules that should be observed: ...

  • There was a big explosion, which shook the windows, and people ran into the street.

  • It was Roger who signed the check.

    More Concise

  • The governor signs or vetoes bills.

  • Four rules should be observed:...

  • A big explosion shook the windows, and people ran into the street.

  • Roger signed the check.

    (LBH p. 534, 39e)


5 use active voice rather than passive voice
5. Use active voice rather than passive voice

Passive voice takes focus off of the subject. Use passive voice only when necessary.

The ball was hit by the boy.

The boy hit the ball.

Wordy

  • An account was opened by Mrs. Simms.

  • Your figures were checked by the research department.

    More Concise

  • Mrs. Simms opened an account.

  • The research department checked your figures.

    (LBH 302-304)


6 omit words that explain the obvious or provide excessive detail
6. Omit words that explain the obvious or provide excessive detail

Always consider your readers as you draft and revise your writing. If you find passages that explain or describe in detail what would already be obvious to readers, delete or reword them.

Wordy

  • It goes without saying that we are acquainted with your policy on filing tax returns, and we have every intention of complying with the regulations that you have mentioned.

  • Imagine a mental picture of someone engaged in the intellectual activity of trying to learn what the rules are for how to play the game of chess.

  • Baseball, one of our oldest and most popular outdoor summer sports in terms of total attendance at ball parks and viewing on television, has the kind of rhythm of play on the field that alternates between times when players passively wait with no action taking place between the pitches to the batter and then times when they explode into action as the batter hits a pitched ball to one of the players and the player fields it.

    More Concise

  • We intend to comply with the tax-return regulations that you have mentioned.

  • Imagine someone trying to learn the rules of chess.

  • Baseball has a rhythm that alternates between waiting and explosive action.


7 omit repetitive wording lbh pp 532 534
7. Omit repetitive wording detail (LBH pp. 532-534)

Watch for phrases or longer passages in your writing in which you repeat words with similar meanings. Below are some general examples of unnecessary repetition contrasted with more concise versions, followed by lists and examples of specific redundant word pairs and categories.

Wordy

  • Many unskilled workers without training in a particular job are unemployed and do not have any work.

  • The supply manager considered the correcting typewriter an unneeded luxury.

    More Concise

  • Many unskilled workers are unemployed.

  • The supply manager considered the correcting typewriter a luxury.


7 omit repetitive wording redundant pairs
7. Omit repetitive wording: detail Redundant pairs

Many pairs of words imply each other. Finish implies complete, so the phrase completely finish is redundant in most cases. So are many other pairs of words:

past memories various differences each individual

basic fundamentals true facts important essentials

future plans terrible tragedy end result

final outcome free gift past history

unexpected surprise sudden crisis very unique

More examples in LBH p. 533.


9 omit repetitive wording redundant categories
9. Omit repetitive wording: detail Redundant categories

Specific words imply their general categories, so we usually don't have to state both. We know that a period is a segment of time, that pink is a color, that shiny is an appearance. In each of the following phrases, the general category term can be dropped, leaving just the specific descriptive word:

large in size often times of a bright color

round in shape at an early time period in time

of cheap quality honest in character of an uncertain condition

unusual in nature extreme in degree of a strange type

in a confused state heavy in weight

Wordy

  • During that period in time, many car buyers preferred cars that were pink in color and shiny in appearance.

  • The microscope revealed a group of organisms that were round in shape and peculiar in nature.

    More Concise

  • During that period, many car buyers preferred pink, shiny cars.

  • The microscope revealed a group of peculiar, round organisms.


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