Avoiding Wordiness: How to Improve Your Writing

Avoiding Wordiness: How to Improve Your Writing

Mar 28, 2019

Texts can be weak and powerful - they can inform, convince, scare, warn, or calm. And, to achieve the purpose of a certain text successfully, you should know the basic rules on how to avoid wordiness.

One of them says that to make your narration resonate with the audience, you have to make it clear and precise. It is interesting to note that the study shows that there are some examples can be left in, yet we will go over the most common rules.

In this article, we would like to provide you with several recommendations on how to avoid redundancy in your texts, refine them easily, and turn everything wordy concise. Since it is a school/college where you face various text-related assignments most frequently, our guide will be focused mostly on academic papers, and we will offer a set of useful advice and tips for students.

The Issue of Wordiness

Getting rid of wordiness is one of the toughest parts of writing and proofreading, especially when you're creating something academic.

When you're struggling to just get words down on the page, using too many words is often the last thing on your mind. But no matter what you're writing, using fewer words to say more is always better than using more words to say less.

Each word can decide your fate when it comes to scholarly writing. Usually, students are given a set of must-meet requirements to get a high grade, and one of them is a word count. That can bring you to fill the text with phrases involving redundant information, provide the facts or some examples that aren't important or interesting, and turn your assignment into a wordy illogical mess.

Next time you're about to hand in a research paper, essay, or lab report, take the time to edit for conciseness and clarity using our amazing guidelines.

The Basics

If you are working on a text for the assignment, the primary task is to:

  • Make your statement clear
  • Provide relevant support for your arguments
  • Help the target audience understand the core idea of your paper

That will help you avoid any "What if's" and extra-questions about the content of your work. That is why it is crucial to eliminate any overdoing with words - to create an understandable and refined A-grade text. To stop beating around the bush in your writings, we have prepared a set of recommendations!

5 Aspects of Wordiness

All the mistakes and cases can be completely different, but there are some patterns of wordiness the professor would like for you to get rid of. Here, we will look through some of them and provide you with effective text-fixing strategies.

#1 Ready-made phrases

It's a common mistake to believe that adding more words will make your paper sound more formal and important.

Phrases like "concerning the matter of..." and "in light of the fact that..." might sound impressive, but they're just taking up space that could be devoted to more concrete ideas. That's why the first rule of wordiness is to never use two (or three, or four) words when one will do. Half the phrases made up of a bunch of words have short and precise analogs.

  • "it's possible that..." (replace with "might" or "maybe")
  • "there's a chance that..." ("might" or "maybe")
  • "has the capacity to..." ("can")
  • "it is necessary that..." ("must" or "should")
  • "it is important that..." ("must" or "should")
  • "in light of the fact that..." ("because")
  • "under circumstances in which..." ("when")
  • "with regard to..." ("about")
  • "at this point in time..." ("now" or "yet")
  • "as a result of..." ("because")
  • "in the event of..." ("if")
  • "in order to..." ("to")
  • "with reference to..." ("about")
  • "in the near future..." ("soon")

Here are some instances of using this technique in action!

  • Incorrect.

    There's a chance that the author of the article was merely mistaken, but in light of the fact that he has not fixed the mistake at this point in time, it is unlikely. (33 words)

  • Correct.

    The author of the article might have been mistaken, but because he has not fixed the mistake yet, it is unlikely. (21 words)

  • Incorrect.

    As a result of exposure to the smoke, there's a chance that many of the firefighters will need to go to the hospital. (23 words)

  • Correct.

    Because of exposure to the smoke, many of the firefighters might need to go to the hospital. (17 words)

#2 Logorrhea

Another common place to find extra words is in small, choppy sentences that repeat the same information. This is a wordiness type that stands for using extra long sentences filled with abstract language and overlaid with conjunctions. A short sentence contains information that doesn't need to stand alone and can instead be combined with the surrounding clauses to create new sentences that use fewer words.

For instance, "It is interesting and important to note that in spite of the fact that Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' is called the most powerful love story, different aspects of the tragedy have considerable implications for perception of the people's relationships, the psychology of behavior, etc." There is a chance you've stopped reading after the first five words. Don't resort to this type of narration unless you are dealing with lab report or law-related assignment.

  • Incorrect.

    The main character in Heart of Darkness is Marlow. Marlow is a ship captain. He is hired by a Belgian company to captain a boat that is headed into the Congo. The goal of his mission is to locate the missing Kurtz. (43 words)

  • Correct.

    The main character in Heart of Darkness, a ship captain named Marlow, is hired by a Belgian company to captain a boat that is headed into the Congo to locate the missing Kurtz. (33 words)

Be on the lookout for sentences that start with "this," "these," or "that," as these types of sentences can usually be combined with other clauses.

  • Incorrect.

    The couch and the table belong to my roommate. These won't be sold in the garage sale.

  • Correct.

    My roommate's couch and table won't be sold in the garage sale.

Many students also tend to remind the reader about something that was already mentioned or obvious, and that is the wrong path. That is not only about repeating the same information several times throughout the writing, but also the pointless bifurcation (simple/elementary, concept/idea), redundant phrasal verbs or adjectives (return away, fall down, final result), and so forth. We suggest you consider the use of more precise words and combinations to make the text understandable.

#3 Useless words and phrases

  • Redundant wording.

    When you're writing, there's no need to say the same thing twice, but a lot of common phrases do just that. When you say something is a "true fact," you're using two words that mean the same thing. If it's a fact, then by definition it's true; if it's true, then by definition it's a fact. There's no need to use both together - it's redundant and distracting. Here are some other common redundant phrases:

    • unexpected surprise
    • vast majority
    • end result
    • currently at this time
    • brief summary
    • free gift
    • famous celebrity
    • lower down
    • enter into
    • continue on
  • Unnecessary modifiers.

    Be careful about modifying words that don't need it. I.e., "really", "very," and "positively" are usually included for emphasis or to intensify, but they don't add any new meaning to the sentence.

    • Incorrect.

      Lincoln thought it was very important that Congress pass the bill before the end of the year.

    • Correct.

      Lincoln thought it was important that Congress pass the bill before the end of the year.

  • Expletive phrases.

    Expletives are phrases with "it" or "there" followed by a "to be" verb, i.e., "it is" or "there are." While these can sometimes be used for emphasis at the start of a sentence, it's probable that they're unnecessary and are just adding extra bulk to your paper. To get rid of expletives at the beginning of sentences, eliminate the "to be" verb and make the object of the expletive phrase the subject of the sentence.

    • Incorrect.

      It is the teacher who needs to grade the exams.

    • Correct.

      The teacher needs to grade the exams.

    • Incorrect.

      There are three people who know the combination to the safe.

    • Correct.

      Three people know the combination to the safe.

  • Infinitives.

    Stringing together infinitive verbs (unconjugated verbs with the "to" still attached) makes sentences challenging to read and wastes valuable space on the page. Usually, those infinitives can be turned into action verbs to shorten the sentence and make the meaning clearer.

    • Incorrect.

      It was her job to check participants into the conference and to hand out gift bags.

    • Correct.

      She checked participants into the conference and handed out gift bags.

    • Incorrect.

      My roommate wanted to have a party, but I told her the noise would cause our landlord to be angry with us.

    • Correct.

      My roommate wanted to party, but I told her that the noise would anger our landlord.

  • Nonessential information.

    Know your audience and trust them to be able to fill in obvious and implied information in a sentence. Prepositional phrases that tell the reader things they already know can be cut.

    • Incorrect.

      When we ate at the restaurant, I ordered salmon from the waiter and my friends and I split a piece of cheesecake between us. (The reader knows that you eat at a restaurant and that you order from the waiter - you don't need to tell them. "Between us" is redundant since the word "share" has already been used.)

    • Correct.

      At the restaurant, I ordered salmon, and my friends and I split a piece of cheesecake.

#4 Transparency and conciseness

A lot of unnecessary words are used in student essays to hedge, backpedal, or imply uncertainty. When you're writing a paper, you should be firm, and not dance around your argument with unnecessary additions like "might" or "seems" or with phrases designed to cajole the reader, like "it should be obvious" or "as you can see."

When you're writing, stay away from iffy words and just say what you mean.

  • Incorrect.

    As you can see from the studies, students are much more likely to complete their homework if they are allowed to have an extra hour of sleep. (27 words)

  • Correct.

    The studies show that students are more likely to complete their homework if they are allowed an extra hour of sleep. (21 words; also notice that an extra infinitive verb was edited out.)

  • Incorrect.

    The author might be using nature imagery to show how the characters connect with their spirituality.

  • Correct.

    The author uses nature imagery to show how the characters connect with their spirituality.

#5 Be ruthless

The last step in proofreading your paper for conciseness is to go back through it line by line and ask yourself whether each word is performing a unique and important task in the sentence. Find all the words that you don't need.

This is the hardest part of proofreading. Once you've put in all that effort getting sentences down on the page, it can be painful to erase them, but it's important that you be ruthless in your editing.

If you find phrasing that's repetitive or vague, take it out or rewrite the sentence to get rid of wordiness. It might make it more difficult if you're trying to meet the word limit, but it will improve the quality of your writing.

If you think that sentences are still wordy, the monotony of your text can help you fix it. Always keep in mind that three long (less than 10 words) or short (more than 10) sentences in a row are hard to perceive. While proofreading and revising the assignment, pay attention to the coherence and cohesion. Your text can be polished like a shiny diamond but complicated for a reader.

Thank you for stopping by and reading our article on avoiding wordiness. Hope our guidelines on this topic will help you with writing only perfect texts!

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