7 Tips for Clearer Writing

Looking for ways to make your writing more concise? You’re not alone. Even the most accomplished wordsmith wants her meaning to be more apparent, her ideas more digestible, and her messages clearer for an audience. While there is no magic solution or computer program to streamline your writing, there are a few strategies that may help you get the most of your prose.

 1. Kill clichés.

These are often a sign of conversational writing and can usually be cut or modified. Here are seven quick examples:

cliché                                     possible alternative

it goes without saying                obviously

don’t get me wrong                      to be clear

suffice it to say                               essentially

turn a blind eye to                         chose to ignore

only time will tell                           become clear over time

to this day                                         currently, presently

as old as the hills                            an old person

 

2. Cut it and there phrases.

These are also called “expletives,” and consist of it + be-verb or there + be-verb often followed by that, which, or who.

Wordy (8 words): There was a boy who told a lie.

  • Concise (5 words): A boy told a lie.

Wordy (12 words): It is in the drawer, which is next to the yellow chair.

  • Concise (8 words): Check the drawer next to the yellow chair.

Wordy (13 words): There was a fire, which burned the shed, but the dog was safe.

  • Concise (10 words): A fire burned the shed, but the dog was safe.

 

3. Cut intensifers.

These are intended to make an adjective stronger, but rarely add to a sentence. Make your writing seem less inflated by eliminating these words:

really, very, extremely, severely, incredibly, amazingly, remarkably

4. Avoid redundancy. 

example                               alternative

actual fact                                  fact

added bonus                             bonus

close proximity                       proximity

ATM machine                           ATM

difficult dilemma                    dilemma

past history                                history

plan ahead                                  plan

5. Remove nominalizations.

A nominalization occurs when a verb is turned into a noun. This typically complicates the sentence for the reader.

 

Wordy (8 words): We conducted an examination of the company’s practices.

  •  Concise (5 words): We examined the company’s practices.

 Wordy (8 words): The document provided an illustration of our results.

  •  Concise (5 words): The document illustrated our results.

 Wordy (7 words): We had a discussion concerning our relationship.

  •  Concise (4 words): We discussed our relationship.

6. Don’t hedge.

Try to be direct with your writing. Avoid phrases such as: sort of, kind of, somewhat, etc. Here are three examples for ways to eliminating hedging:

 Wordy                                                               specific

It looks kind of like a toy.                        It looks like a toy.

It’s a type of tool.                                         It’s a tool.

She is sort of similar to Jen.                   She’s similar to Jen.

7. Be specific.

Use a concete, direct noun or verb instead of a vague one. The words things, stuff, went, and got can always be replaced with more specific words or phrases.

Always remember: there is no universal way to write. These are recommendations much more than rules and hopefully they are helpful in your next writing endeavor.
What are some tips or strategies you use to keep your writing clear and concise? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!

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