Omit Needless Words: Concise Language

Omit Needless Words: Concise Language

Author: Meghan Hatalla

How to:
- Use concise language
- Avoid empty phrases (e.g. as a matter of fact, at this point in time, etc)
- Recognize wordy language and replace it with concise language

"Concise language" is conveying your meaning without using a lot of words to do it. As you write papers and other assignments, there are a few questions that are (or should be) running through your mind: "Does this sound right?" "Will readers understand what I'm saying?" "Is this really what I mean?" Sometimes we decide to include multiple descriptions of the same thing to really convey something. Or maybe you need to have a certain number of words or pages, so you choose a roundabout way to write something. More often than not, this kind of writing is ineffective.

This packet will help you learn how to write in a concise manner and avoid empty phrases as well as how you can recognize wordy language and how to fix it.

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Adhering to Rule 13

You may have heard of William Strunk's "Elements of Style" (available online as part of the Bartleby Project), edited by E. B. White in the paper edition (yes, the same E. B. White who wrote "Charlotte's Web). The "Elements of Style" is a writing guide with a section that pertains specifically to concise writing, succinctly entitled Rule 13: "OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS:"

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Although it seems a little dated, the online guide provides an overview on phrases and words that can be used in better ways. The video below is a class project based on rule 13!

N*Strunk "Omit Needless Words" = N*SYNK "Dirty Pop"

Write This / Not That

Sometimes as we write, we start using unnatural or repetitive wording that clouds our meaning, or use figures of speech that don't translate to writing. This slide show covers a few different things to look out for:

Slide 2: Phrases to Avoid
Slide 3: Clichés to Avoid
Slide 4: Redundancies to Avoid

Source: Meghan, notes

Fat-Free Writing

While it's important to find words that capture your meaning, it's equally important to use words that are easy-to-read (if a word is unfamiliar or unconventional to your reader, your paper will lose some of its reading ease). Sometimes a couple small words are more effective than one long word. 

Garbl's Long Word Replacement attempts to "help you cut the fat from your writing--so your readers can easily chew, digest and be nourished by your top-choice words."

Some examples:

Ameloriate ⇒ Improve
Augment ⇒ Increase
Mitigate ⇒ Ease
Permit ⇒ Let


Writing Concise Sentences: This quiz consists of sentences for you to rewrite in a more concise way using the techniques presented throughout this packet, then checking your answer with the version by the site's author.

Eliminating Wordiness: This quiz asks you to delete redundancies and useless phrases.