What is conciseness? • We obscure the real potential in our sentences by being wordy. Writing becomes too abstract, uninteresting and difficult to understand. The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words. Concise writing does not always have the fewest words, but it always uses the strongest ones. Writers often fill sentences with weak or unnecessary words that can be deleted or replaced. Words and phrases should be deliberately chosen for the work they are doing. Like bad employees, words that don't accomplish enough should be fired. When only the most effective words remain, writing will be far more concise and readable.
But… how do we achieve Conciseness? When you finish writing try revising your paper bearing in mind these pieces of advice: • Eliminate wordy sentence structure • Drop unneeded words • Omit redundancies
Eliminating wordy sentence structures Revise unnecessary expletive constructions An expletive construction consists of it and there along with a form of the verb be placed before the subject in a sentence. E.g. It was Facebook that kept me from doing my homework There is a new song I want to download
Revise unnecessary passive constructions Active voice adds liveliness as well as conciseness, so it’s usually preferable. The simplest way to revise from the passive voice is to make the doer of the action the subject of the sentence. E.g. Business English class was taught by an Irish teacher. The Irish teacher taught the Business English class. Sometimes you can revise a sentence from passive voice to active voice by using a new verb. This is especially useful when you want to keep the same subject. Keep this in mind when revising for you do not want to mislead readers about the focus of your writing. E.g. Britain was defeated by the United States in the War of 1812 Britain lost the War of 1812 to the United States
Combining sentences and reducing clauses and phrases • Combining sentences: look carefully at sets of sentences in your writing. You may be able to fit the information in one sentence into another sentence. E.g. The Titanic was discovered seventy-three years after being sunk by an iceberg. The wreck was located in the Atlantic by a team of French and American scientists. (?)
Reducing clauses: you can sometimes reduce an adjective clause simply by dropping the opening relative pronoun and verb. E.g. The scientists held a memorial service for the passengers and crew members who had died. (?) Sometimes you can reduce a clause to a single word. E.g. When they were confronted with disaster, some passengers behaved heroically, while others behaved selfishly. (?)
Reducing phrases: sometimes you can reduce phrases to shorter. E.g. More than two billion searches are done in Google each month. (?)
Using strong verbs and avoiding nouns formed from verbs Your writing will have more impact when you choose verbs that are strong because they directly convey an action. Be and Have are not strong verbs and they tend to create wordy structures. E.g. The board members were of the opinion that the revisions in the code were not changes they could accept. (?) Look also for nominals (nouns derived from verbs, usually by added suffixes such as –ance, -ment, or –tion). Turning them back into verbs reduces words and increases impact. E.g. The woman had the appearance of having had an accident. (?)
Using pronouns for conciseness • E.g. Queen Elizabeth II served as a driver and mechanic in World War II. Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1944, while the future queen was still a princess. Although Princess Elizabeth did not know how to drive, she quickly learned how to strip and repair many kinds of engines. (?)
Let’s work on these sentences: • It is stressed by the psychologist Robert Epstein that there are many existing advances in everything. The advances are in the field from astrophysics to car design to dance. The advances creatively combine ideas that were from widely different sources. • Epstein gave his students the assignment of a problem. The problem called for the retrieval of a ping pong ball. It was located at the bottom of a vertical drainpipe that was sealed at the bottom. • Some of the tools that the students had been given by Epstein were too short to reach the ball. Other tools hat the students had been given were too wide to fit into the pipe. • The students were stumped at first. The students tried unsuccessfully to capture the ball with the tools. Then the students stepped back from the immediate situation. The students saw the big picture and began thinking creatively. • Water was poured down the drainpipe by the students. The ball achieved flotation and rose to the top. The ball was retrieved by the students there.
Dropping unneeded words To achieve conciseness, eliminate unneeded words that clutter sentences. Revise imprecise language so that many inexact words do not take the place on one exact.
Let’s try these exercises: • As a matter of fact, statistics show that many marriages end in divorce. • Mary Stuart did not say the monarch’s oath when she became queen of Scotland due to the fact that she was just six years old. • The project's final cost was an essential factor to consider. • The child touched the snake in a reluctant manner. • His comment was of an offensive nature. • Gordon took a relaxing type of vacation. • It seems that the union called a strike over health benefits. • The team had the tendency to lose home games. • The crime rate that exists is unacceptable. • Work crews were dispatched for the purpose of fixing the potholes. • In the case of the proposed water tax, residents were very angry. • In the event that you are late, I will leave. • The point I am trying to make is that news reporters should not invade people’s privacy.
Omitting redundancies Planned repetition can create a powerful rhythmic effect. The dull drone of unplanned repetition, however, can bore a reader and prevent the delivery of your message. Unplanned repetition, called redundancy, says the same thing more than once. Certain redundant word pairs are very common. Avoid expressions like each and every, forever and ever, final and conclusive. Other common redundancies are perfectly clear, consensus of opinion. Redundancies deaden sentence’s impact. E.g. The consensus of opinion among those of us who saw it is that the carton was huge in size. (?)
Now let’s try this: • Replace several vague words with more powerful and specific words. Wordy: The politician talked about several of the merits of after-school programs in his speech (14 words) Concise: The politician touted after-school programs in his speech. (8 words) Wordy: Suzie believed but could not confirm that Billy had feelings of affection for her. (14 words) Concise: Suzie assumed that Billy adored her. (6 words) Wordy: Our website has made available many of the things you can use for making a decision on the best dentist. (20 words) Concise: Our website presents criteria for determining the best dentist. (9 words) Wordy: Working as a pupil under a someone who develops photos was an experience that really helped me learn a lot. (20 words) Concise: Working as a photo technician's apprentice was an educational experience. (10 words)
2. Interrogate every word in a sentence Check every word to make sure that it is providing something important and unique to a sentence. If words are dead weight, they can be deleted or replaced. Wordy: The teacher demonstrated some of the various ways and methods for cutting words from my essay that I had written for class. (22 words) Concise: The teacher demonstrated methods for cutting words from my essay. (10 words) Wordy: Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood formed a new band of musicians together in 1969, giving it the ironic name of Blind Faith because early speculation that was spreading everywhere about the band suggested that the new musical group would be good enough to rival the earlier bands that both men had been in, Cream and Traffic, which people had really liked and had been very popular. (66 words) Concise: Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood formed a new band in 1969, ironically naming it Blind Faith because speculation suggested that the group would rival the musicians’ previous popular bands, Cream and Traffic. (32 words) Wordy: Many have made the wise observation that when a stone is in motion rolling down a hill or incline that that moving stone is not as likely to be covered all over with the kind of thick green moss that grows on stationary unmoving things and becomes a nuisance and suggests that those things haven’t moved in a long time and probably won’t move any time soon. (67 words) Concise: A rolling stone gathers no moss. (6 words)
3. Combine Sentences. Some information does not require a full sentence, and can easily be inserted into another sentence without losing any of its value. Wordy: Ludwig's castles are an astounding marriage of beauty and madness. By his death, he had commissioned three castles. (18 words) Concise: Ludwig's three castles are an astounding marriage of beauty and madness. (11 words) Wordy: The supposed crash of a UFO in Roswell, New Mexico aroused interest in extraterrestrial life. This crash is rumored to have occurred in 1947. (24 words) Concise: The supposed 1947 crash of a UFO in Roswell, New Mexico aroused interest in extraterrestrial life. (16 words)