How to Write Concisely

How to Write Concisely
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If you see such words as “filler,” “wordy,” or “irrelevant” when checking your instructor’s comments, it means that you have to write more concisely. When writing academic papers, your goal is to provide information, getting to the point and avoiding everything unnecessary. If you learn to write concisely, you’ll become a better writer, no matter whether you write essays at school, business letters, or emails. Your readers are busy and they don’t want to waste their time reading irrelevant information.

We at decided to help you improve your writing with some tips. You can avoid wordiness if you learn to identify unnecessary segments in your writing and revise it properly. You can always make wordy sentences shorter. However, sometimes, you may keep them as they are, even though the same thought can be expressed more concisely. For example, you may use redundancy and repetition as rhetorical devices.

1. Avoid redundancy

If one word has the same meaning as the next one, don’t use them both. For instance, the most common examples of redundancy in writing are such phrases as “first and foremost,” “full and complete,” “whole entire,” “each and every,” “always and forever,” “true and accurate,” etc.

2. Get rid of unnecessary qualifiers

Sometimes, we use qualifiers that aren’t actually necessary (just like the word “actually” in this sentence). If you get rid of the unnecessary qualifiers, you will make your sentence more straightforward and concise. Most often, people use such unnecessary qualifiers as “probably,” “actually,” “really,” “very,” “definitely,” “extremely,” “basically,” “practically,” “kind of,” and “somewhat.”

3. Cut down prepositional phrases

Another common problem is overusing prepositional phrases. These are phrases that begin with such words as “for,” “at,” “over,” “in,” “on,” “through.” They make your sentences unclear and wordy. We recommend that you read your text and circle your prepositions to detect phrases that you can delete without losing the meaning. The simplest way to revise such sentences is to ask yourself what is the general meaning of a sentence and then write a new one, without the unnecessary prepositions.

4. Find unnecessary modifiers

Sometimes, modifiers are unnecessary because the very meaning of a phrase or word implies a certain modifier. For example, the sentence “We don’t anticipate disasters in advance” has the unnecessary modifier “in advance.” The word “anticipate” already expresses the idea so you can easily cut off this modifier. The same goes for such phrases as “revolutionize completely,” as the word “completely” doesn’t add more meaning.

5. Replace phrases with single words

There are many common phrases that can be easily replaced with single words. They are especially common in formal papers and they don’t add any meaning, only making sentences longer. The most common examples of such phrases are “due to the fact that,” “given the fact that,” “the reason for,” “considering the fact that,” and “in light of the fact that.” You can always replace such phrases with words like “because,” “why,” or “since.”

6. Replace negatives with affirmatives

Every time you express an idea in a negative form, you have to add an extra word. In addition, such phrases are harder to comprehend. For example, if you have a phrase that looks like “if you don’t… then don’t…,” we recommend that you replace it with a simpler affirmative phrase.

Think About Your Argument

What is your thesis statement? What is the purpose of your paper? Think of what parts of your paper actually serve the purpose of your writing. When writing papers based on a strong argument, you should make sure that all the parts of such a paper are directly related to your thesis statement, supporting and explaining it. You might provide evidence that supports the argument or address counterarguments.

Make sure that every paragraph of your paper has a purpose. Examine every paragraph and determine whether it’s necessary for the context of your thesis. You may find out that you can delete or reduce some paragraphs with no damage to the overall meaning of your paper. Of course, such a process is difficult and somewhat stressful but it will certainly help you make your paper more concise.

Think About Your Audience

Some types of papers are not thesis-driven, however, all the papers are intended for a certain audience. Always think about your readers and ask yourself what they would like to learn.

For instance, if you write a paper about psychology and Sigmund Freud’s works, and your audience consists of readers who are already familiar with the topic, there’s no point in explaining who Freud was and how he changed psychiatry. On the other hand, if your audience isn’t familiar with the topic, you may want to provide such background information to help them better understand your paper.

If you’re applying to a business school, you might need to provide a one-page resume. In this case, you may feel tempted to use the smallest font possible, including all of your jobs and activities. However, we recommend that you think of what your audience is most interested in and focus on this information so that your resume will be easy to comprehend.

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