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.
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:
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.