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Concise language

Concise language

 
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Author: Ryan Howard
Objective:
  1. Introduce concise language and why it should be used.

  2. Explain how to convert common empty phrases and redundant language into more concise language.

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Tutorial

Introduction to Concise Language

What is concise language?

Concise language involves the simplification of word usage into something more comprehensible.

Example: There was a destructive tornado that ravaged the town.

This sounds very "wordy" and full big words that do not necesarily need to be there.

If we were to take away the "to be" verb (which in this case would be "was") and rearranged the sentence, using simpler words, we could get the point across just as well.

A destructive tornado went through the town.

See how much simpler that was? It still got the point across.

Adding "to be" verbs such as "is," "was," and "am" tend to drag the writing along.

What if you were an employer reading a cover letter that was written like this?

Dear Mr. Smith:

I am inquiring about the position of real estate agent for which you are offering. There is a strong desire I have for communicating with clients and helping them find good homes. I have been a real estate agent at Johnson Realtors for three years. During that time, being a good salesman to clients was rewarding. It was also rewarding to be a good friend to them. .........

Would you hire this person?

"Wordy" writings such as the cover letter excerpt above tend to take interest away from the reader.

At times, the substitution of "bigger" words changes the meaning. When some people write papers, they will look to a thesaurus in order to "spice up" their vocabulary. The word that is being substituted may be similar in meaning, but not have the same meaning as the simpler word.

Let us take a look at this sample:

If a writer were to replace the word "ugly" with "loathsome," that would change the meaning.

The teenager could not get a date to the prom because he was ugly.

The teenager could not get a date to the prom because he was loathsome.

Just because the teenager was ugly does not mean he was hateful. He could have a lot of fine personal qualities to him. Similarly, a person could be very attractive and be horrible in personality.

To illustrate this point moreso, let us take the word "toilet." If one were to look it up in a thesaurus, there would be different entries. For instance, one could choose "garderobe," which is a fancy word for "bathroom."

Here is the original sentence:

I would like to pick up a toilet for the basement.

And the "revised" sentence:

I would like to pick up a garderobe for the basement.

In the first sentence, it is obvious that the writer wanted to take home a toilet to have installed in the basement.

In the second sentence (after those who are not familiar with the word look it up), however, it looks as though the person wanted to take home a bathroom.

Concise Langugage Activities

Here are a few activities dealing with concise language.

Eliminating Wordiness

Writing Concise Sentences

Rewriting Bloated Sentences

Conclusion

Things learned in this packet:

  • Concise language involves the simplification of word usage into something more comprehensible.

  • Adding "to be" verbs such as "is"," was", "am", or "are" tend to drag the writing along.

  • Substitution of "bigger" words can change the meaning (e.g. looking up "ugly" in a thesaurus and replacing it with "loathsome" changes the meaning, as lothsome people can be physically beautiful).

  • Redundant words are words that are not wanted or needed (e.g. "circle around" instead of "circle")

Source: see above sections for sources

Questions and Answers

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